This is Depressing: A Tale of Mental Health (or Not)

I tried to kill myself when I was 7.

Being 7, my options were limited, so I went with something I’d overheard some adults discussing (related to an distant family member) and thought jumping out of a window was the best plan, since I had access to a window. My bedroom was on the second floor, with a casement window right next to the Barbie townhouse with the string-operated elevator.

Since it was the kind commonly called an awning window, with the hinge on the top edge and the crank arm at the bottom right in the middle of the window opening (which wasn’t very big to begin with), a dramatic leap wasn’t an option.

This is the kind of window I’m talking about:

awning window, opened

An awning window with the same style crank arm and about the same opening as the window in this story. Photo from Greatland Windows.

I squeezed my skinny little body through the opening while holding on to the crank arm. But then instead of a fast leap to a quick and easy death as I’d imagined it, I found myself dangling from the crank arm. That was kind of scary, and I reconsidered for a minute or so. I was a champion at the arm hang back then, which came in handy in this instance, but the crank arm was digging into my hands and I eventually let go and fell to the ground.

Nothing happened. The house wasn’t all that tall, the 2nd story was really just a finished attic, and the window in question was at floor level, so the drop was probably only about 10 feet. For a moment I thought that as a consolation prize maybe I’d broken my leg or ankle and would get a cast out of it (a classmate had a cast around that time and everyone was signing it, which I thought was cool), but no. I limped — my ankle did kind of hurt from how I fell on it — over to the restaurant bar where my mother was working (we lived in the house directly behind, as she was the manager) and told her I’d fallen out the window. I was informed that if I was walking I was fine. She handed me the soda gun and said I could make a suicide (the combine-all-the-sodas drink that was in vogue with me and my brothers and friends) to make myself feel better. Ah, the unintended irony. I drank my Pepsi + 7-up + Root Beer + Orange + Dr. Pepper + Tonic and decided that maybe things weren’t so bad and I could stick it out a while longer.*

A few weeks later at my grandmother’s house I decided to try again. I went into the bathroom and read the labels on all the cleaning products in the cabinet. I chose the aerosol can of Dow Scrubbing Bubbles, aimed it at the back of my throat, and pressed the button. A tiny bit of mist came out, but the can was empty. I was aggravated for two reasons:

  1. Suicide denied.
  2. Who puts an empty container away instead of throwing it out?

After that I got a steak knife from her kitchen and went back to the bathroom and tried cutting my wrists (I watched a lot of soap operas with my grandmother, so I was sure this method would be effective). It was as I was sawing back and forth (my grandmother’s steak knives were, I now realize, exceptionally dull), having just barely broken the skin and gotten a drop or two of blood — from abrasion rather than opening an artery — that my grandmother caught me. Oh, was I in trouble.

  1. How did I think it would make her feel to discover my dead body? It would kill her! I don’t get to kill myself! I have to live! It’s not my right to hurt other people just because my life is hard!**
  2. Had I learned nothing from General Hospital? To slit your wrists you cut lengthwise on the artery, not crosswise, or it will clot up too fast for you to die from it. Come on!

This interaction is the reason that despite later occurrences of depression in my life, including several straight years recently of lying in bed thinking about how much easier it would be to be dead (thanks, depression brain!), I have never seriously considered taking that exit route despite its attractiveness (to the aforementioned depressed brain, not to my logical mind). For me, guilt is stronger than depression.

What does that have to do with my life now?

I have suffered from depression on and off for most of my adult life. For the past 10 years or so, I have suffered from severe chronic depression with anxiety. About 4 of the past five years that depression included constant suicidal ideation. The early trauma that made a 7-year-old — think about that, 7 years old — believe that life was not worth living because it all hurt too much laid groundwork in my brain that would punish me the rest of my life. Thanks, neurology!

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’m sharing my story because knowing you are not alone helps.

In my late teens and 20s, I would have a major depressive episode every couple of years, each lasting 1-3 weeks. I’d hole up and hide from the world, and re-read all my favorite books until it passed, the same escape/coping mechanism I’d used as a child. It wasn’t enjoyable, but I was under the impression that it was normal, never having known anything different, and was just sort of used to it.

In between episodes, I was relatively shy/introverted, but generally happy and cheerful. I had left my hometown and the socio-economic tier of my childhood, and I felt pretty damn lucky and fortunate. I had tons of energy. Andrea (who’s known me for more than 20 years) and I sometimes compare the me of today to the me of when we met and struggle to understand how/why the brain does what it does. Back then, if our coworkers were sitting around looking bored I would just start jumping as high as I could, until everyone was jumping and laughing and having fun. These days, I need an external reason of some importance (an event, a meeting, an obligation that requires my presence) to get me to do much other than work from my bed. It basically sucks.

So, depression. To explain what it feels like, I tend to point to other people who’ve done a good job of explaining what I have felt. Reading/seeing/hearing their accounts has helped me tremendously in my own battle.

I identify with most of what they are all saying.

I’m not sad. I’m not bummed out. When I was 7? I was definitely sad, and definitely bummed out. Not to mention constantly in fear and pain with what felt like zero stability. Today? I have a life that objectively speaking is really pretty great. I don’t have a lot of things that deserve worry. I am, however, chock full of depression and anxiety. Because depression is a “mental illness,” there is a huge stigma around admitting to it, especially for  people who get a lot of their self-worth from being intelligent. The hazy lines between intelligence and emotions and matter-of-fact brain science make it difficult to discuss comfortably, especially once words with multiple meanings come into play. So, I’m depressed — severely, clinically, according to docs — but I’m not sad, or bummed out. My brain, in this specific way, doesn’t work the way it’s expected to work, not anymore. This post is scary to be writing and will be even scarier to publish, but being a little brave on my own behalf is probably good for me, and hopefully it might help someone else who is struggling.

What happened ten or so years ago that caused such an extended bout with depression? Who knows? There was the scooter accident that broke my face and gave me a concussion (concussion increases risk of depression). A couple of years later I moved back to the east coast, closer to my family. I went back to agency work, which required more hours and travel than my publishing job had. My metabolism changed and I started gaining weight despite going up and down the stairs to my fifth-floor walkup all the time. My stepfather got cancer and I helped to take care of him during his treatment even though he’d been an abusive drunk who destroyed my self-esteem during my adolescent and teen years, and then he died. My friend — oh wait. Yeah, that whole help-your-abuser-and-watch-him-die thing was probably the trigger. Damn brain.

Anyway, I stopped going out socially for the most part. I bought a tv for work (we had a lot of network clients and I had to be familiar with their shows during pitch meetings), and fell into the habit of lying in bed staring at the screen, watching DVD box sets I bought at the Virgin megastore on my way home from work. I put less energy into staying in touch with friends because I didn’t feel like I had anything valuable to contribute to my relationships (the friends I had were super cool and impressive, whereas I had devolved from similarly cool and impressive to worthless potato). When I had to go to a meeting or conference for work, I’d just remember how I used to be and feel and would try to act like that even though I didn’t feel that way.

Then I went to work for a distributed company, and lost the sole thing that forced me out of my apartment and to interact with people. I became a  hermit, mostly venturing out only for WordCamps, where I would again just try to remember what I used to be like in social situations and act like that. Sometimes I was successful, and sometimes I failed. Sometimes I had to bail because the depression and anxiety were unconquerable that day. 99% of my interactions were conducted in text online. Having stepped into a position that was contentious in some circles, I was abused by strangers online who had issues with my boss and saw me as an acceptable proxy. Every mean comment chopped away at my self-esteem, even when I knew logically that I was a symbol to them, not a real person. I was a woman in a mostly-male environment, with all that brings. I lost some of my niceness as I tried to protect myself more. The first few years I managed okay (or so I thought), with only an abrupt tone or  sometimes flarey temper to give me away. But.

Then I lost a relationship with one of my best friends. This person hadn’t told me along the way that I’d been changing or behaving unlike the me that was their friend, so when they said one day that they didn’t like me anymore and that I was unpleasant to be around, so we weren’t going to be good friends anymore because they’d been faking it for awhile (jeez, does this sound like an overdone breakup scene or what?) it more or less destroyed me.

The already severe chronic depression intensified, and I had a harder and harder time getting up in the morning. You know the lead aprons they put on you at the dentist when you get x-rays? I felt like I was wearing 3 or 4 full-body lead aprons all the time. It was physical, not just psychological or emotional anymore. It made it really hard to fight it with things that used to help — exercise, eating healthy food, etc. — because I didn’t have the energy to do those things. So I just stayed in bed most of the time working on my laptop, unless I was required to physically be somewhere.

During this time the death thoughts moved in. Not in a “I want to kill myself!” way; my grandmother’s guilt trip about what suicide does to the family was as deeply ingrained in my psyche as the early trauma that kept getting re-triggered. My variation of suicidal ideation was more like lying there and just thinking about how much nicer/easier it would be to not exist anymore. If I wasn’t concerned abut my mother and niece having to deal with my death, I’d have done something about it. The belief that being dead would be better than being alive with depression was so strong that when people I knew and admired killed themselves (attributed to depression) my gut reaction was “Good for them! They made it! I wish I was as brave as them!” I knew logically that their deaths were tragedies, that the world was a lesser place without them, all those things, but I didn’t have normal feelings anymore. My fish were dead.

I have skipped over a lot in this narrative. How I did a lot of emotional work  in my twenties to get past my childhood trauma. Unsuccessful (and frankly, re-traumatizing) attempts at getting help from doctors of western medicine. How the sudden appearance of anxiety caused me to fuck up tons of things, throw money away, and generally not make smart decisions. How the OCD that sprang up in the suicidal/bedridden years meant I was typing and mousing on a laptop for 12-18 hours a day sometimes, causing nerve damage in my arms/wrists/hands. More relationships that died because I wasn’t me anymore.

But there’s also good stuff. The people and things that really did help some during my time “in the pit” — especially the people willing to be true friends and confront me about how I was acting as I fell further and further in, rather than just bailing on our friendship and leaving me to continue being a miserable wreck. Finally finding some help that worked in the form of a naturopath who put me on some stuff that got rid of the suicidal ideation in about 2 days. Not 4-6 weeks — 2 days. Acupuncture helping to keep me on a more even keel. Starting a bluehackers chat room at work for support among co-workers dealing with similar issues. And more stuff.

But there you have it, the very personal, mostly embarrassing/humiliating story of how my brain — which I once loved as my greatest asset — has betrayed me over the years, how I’ve experienced depression, and how you, if you are dealing with this, are not alone.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

If you are considering suicide, please don’t do it. If you don’t have friends and family that can guilt you into staying alive, think about my grandmother! If you don’t have someone you can talk to, call the national suicide prevention lifeline. (When they start calling it a lifeline instead of a hotline? I am so old.)

If you work in open source/technology and suffer from depression, you might check out bluehackers. It’s awesome. If you attend conferences like OS Bridge or OSCON, look for BOF sessions to connect with others in similar straits.

Consider posting your own experiences to help fight the stigma. I’ve had a draft of this post in WordPress for two years. It is scary to tell your secrets, knowing that there are a lot of crappy people out there who will approach you with judgment rather than empathy. To those who are feeling pretty judgy right about now, I can only say that I didn’t choose this. No one does. And quite frankly, I’ve accomplished a fuckload of stuff in the past 10 years that has been beneficial to others, even if on a personal level I was the equivalent of a bitchy vegetable. So if anyone is judging me and other people who deal with this crap, they can take a hike, and they suck.

If you just want to say to someone, “This is crap and I’m dealing with it, too,” without getting into details, drop a comment here or shoot me an email. Connecting with others who deal with this stuff has been huge in helping me dig myself out of the patterns; maybe it will help you, too.

* I’ve told this story before, leaving out the suicidal intent, claiming I was after the cast. That wasn’t why I jumped from the window, it was an afterthought after I landed. Guess what? People don’t like to talk about how they tried to commit suicide or how they’re dealing with mental illness because then people look at you funny and treat you weird and you feel ashamed and embarrassed and you regret saying anything. Welcome to stigma!

** My grandmother’s brother blew his brains out with a gun. Even though she loved me and I’m sure her demands that I stay alive came from a good place — and they did keep me alive — I wonder how much of that reaction was a more selfish thing. Did seeing me with the steak knife trigger her and remind her of losing her brother? She’s dead, so I can’t ask, but I do wonder. Trauma affects so many people.

“I Taught Her Everything I Knew”

I still follow the Savannah Morning News on Twitter. Since I’m not on Twitter that often and when I am there are always at least a couple of people in my timeline who are ranting or RTing a storm, I don’t tend to see Savannah News tweets all that often. I will say that I don’t like how often the tweet is someone’s mugshot, telling of another arrest, or how often it’s a young man with brown skin, because I know for a fact there are plenty of young caucasian men committing crimes in Savannah, but I don’t usually see those mugshots in my timeline. But maybe it’s just my timing, and if I were on Twitter all the time, I would see a balance of mugshots. I suppose it’s possible. Anyway, the reason I still follow the Savannah Morning News is that my mom is still in Savannah, and I still have a lot of affection for Savannah and Tybee, and sometimes they post something that I might want to read. A big storm washing out the Tybee road, a baby whale off Tybee, the death of a rescued turtle at the Tybee Marine Science Center, controversy over trying to get rid of Orange Crush from the Tybee Beach, that sort of thing. I don’t usually click on obituaries, but this time I did.

Teinique Gadson died at the age of 40 yesterday.

Tenique Gadson's facebook header

Tenique Gadson’s facebook header. Her feed is filled with positivity and thanks (and God), and her energy and spirit make you (or me, at least) want to be a better person.

I never met her, but I’d seen her name many times in relation to non-profits in Savannah (17 miles from the city of Tybee, where I lived) that were devoted to helping low-income people/families. When I started acupuncture school and we had to talk about where we might open a community acupuncture clinic in the future to help provide affordable healthcare to low-income/oppressed communities, I immediately thought of Savannah, and Teinique Gadson was the kind of person that I expected to be emailing in a few years if I did decide to head back there. Anyway, she did a lot of work that helped a lot of people, and probably didn’t get paid anywhere near what she was worth, as is the case with most community non-profits. I’m sorry her life ended so soon, both for her and her family, and for the Savannah communities that benefited from her efforts. I hope that some of the people she helped were inspired by her and might choose to give back to the community in kind. Since in addition to the work she did herself helping individuals she also did a ton of volunteer wrangling, I’m pretty sure there will be people carry on in her tradition.

So I clicked through to read this obituary. It mentioned her involvement as a teen with Youth Futures, and how it led her into community-building as a career and into the Executive Director position at the Neighborhood Improvement Association. I hadn’t known much about her background, just her current activity, so I would have liked to read more than 2 sentences about how she got there. I mean, this was an impressive woman, and an inspiring one. I wanted the obituary to outline her accomplishments and challenges and paint a real picture of this person who was so important to so many people in the community. That’s what obits usually do for civic leaders. But it didn’t, really. Then it quoted the previous ED of the NIA, Edward Chisholm, and I was super bummed. He’s also an impressive person who does a lot for the community, but here’s the quote:

Chisolm said he identified Gadson early for her intelligence and as a “person who cared about the organization, the work.”

“I taught her everything I knew,” he said, adding that he “basically hand-picked her. She was very, very insightful, very smart with great ideas. She loved people.”

I like to think that Mr. Chisolm didn’t mean to turn a tribute to Ms. Gadson into self-congratulatory praise about his acumen as a mentor. I like to think that the reporter didn’t realize he just changed the focus of the story from the amazing woman who died to the man who is still living. I like to think these things, because if they’re true it means that these guys don’t subconsciously think that the male accomplishment of recognizing talent trumps the female accomplishment of having and using talent. But it’s Savannah. It’s the U.S. And we are continually socialized this way. So I doubt they thought they were saying or doing anything disrespectful, and I’d guess that Ms. Gadson herself would have been touched to hear Mr. Chisholm say how special she was.

The next time they’re talking about someone special, though, I hope they’ll stick to the part about how special that person was, and not how awesome someone else was for recognizing it. Probably there are some people reading this thinking that I’m too sensitive, that having a great man say in public that he recognized a woman (or anyone) as a worthy successor is high praise indeed. Erm, sure, but there are better ways to laud a mentee than to congratulate the mentor. It could have said something more like:

Chisolm said Gadson distinguished herself early with her intelligence and as a “person who cared about the organization, the work.”

“She absorbed everything that was available to learn, and when it was time to choose my successor as Executive Director of the NIA, she was the only pick,” he said, adding that, “She was very, very insightful, very smart with great ideas. She loved people.”

I know that this is a small thing. That it’s a couple of words. That compared to what’s going on in Baltimore and Nepal right now, this is nothing. But Teinique Gadson kicked serious ass, and those couple of words do make a difference. And for women to be recognized equally for the work they do, one of the things that needs to happen is for men to stop taking credit for discovering them.

An additional post went up on the Savannah Morning News site this morning so that former mayor Otis Johnson could add his praise of Ms. Godson. As Johnson was one of the leaders of the Youth Futures program that gave Ms. Godson her start, it made sense. He said:

“She was evidence of what we were trying to do with the  Youth Futures Authority,” Johnson said, adding she came to the  authority as a young person and worked her way up to director of NIA where she was a founding member.

“I have always been very proud of her  progress,” Johnson said. “She was a sterling example of what we were trying to do and did do, at the Youth Futures Authority.”

“It really distresses me greatly that she was taken away at such an early age.”

Rest in peace, Teinique Godson.

Tiny Desk Concert: Fantastic Negrito

A few weeks ago (months ago? I lose track) I spent several days listening to Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR. At the Press Publish conference in Phoenix recently, I gave a talk on how to publish more posts with less work, and one of the things I suggested was doing a series of embeds to show your readers things you like. In the presentation I used a Tiny Desk concert by a folksinger (and embedded it onto a cat’s blog), but I’ve been thinking about doing a series of Tiny Desk embed posts ever since I heard this show by Fantastic Negrito.

It says a lot that, with almost 7,000 entries to choose from, we selected Fantastic Negrito as the winner of our Tiny Desk Concert Contest. For his winning submission, he performed “Lost In A Crowd” in a freight elevator in Oakland. It was his passion, his voice and his backing band that landed him an invitation to perform behind my desk.
—Bob Boilen, NPR Tiny Desk Concerts

Hail

We had hail twice earlier this week and the noise on the skylights was really loud.

Epigenetics

I’m taking a class on behavioral neuroscience. As expected, everything is fascinating and I’d like to spend all day for a few years just learning about how brains work — there’s been so much new research and development of knowledge since I was last immersed in studying anatomy/physiology/psychology around 20 years ago. Just now I watched this Nova video about epigenetics, and my mind is racing with ideas and implications. Holy crap, this class is going to be cool.

School, Cancer, and Smoking

I’m taking a medical terminology class as a co-requisite for my acupuncture program. It’s a pain in the ass because it will drag out for a whole semester, and if I had the option I would test out of it — I remember all this stuff from massage school 15 years ago and my various stints as a medical assistant (which in one case included medical transcription). They don’t allow testing out, though, and while the lectures and practice exercises are posted in advance, the assignments and tests are released on a weekly basis, and I have to log in at least 3 times per week to pass the class. This morning I’ve been doing the exercises for the chapter on oncology, and it’s brought up some memories.

One:

  • My Irish grandfather’s thick head of silver hair — complete with “Irish wave” — disappearing due to chemo, leaving him first bald as a pool cue (with a freckled scalp), then the possessor of wispy baby-fine white hair. Adiós, silver fox hair.
  • Hearing about my grandfather’s decline during chemo while I was across the country.
  • The excitement of hearing the chemo had worked.
  • The anger when the cancer came back.
  • The selfish despair when he decided not to do chemo a second time. “Go through that again? For what? I’m done.”
  • Family strife in the wake of his death.

Two:

  • My stepfather, who bounced back from a heart attack and open heart surgery as if nothing had ever been wrong and showing no outward physical changes, becoming a walking skeleton wrapped in papery skin.
  • Troubleshooting a stubborn oxygen tank replacement.
  • Buying a bed, having it delivered and set up in the living room, and carrying the nice mattress down from upstairs because he couldn’t climb stairs anymore. Not being able to use my hands without pain for a few days because that was too much for my bad wrists.
  • Looking at x-rays and scans with the pulmonary oncologist and hearing, “You know, a long-time smoker who’s destined to get cancer could have caught it sooner by getting regular chest films. Not catching it until Stage 4, there’s really nothing to be done.”
  • Hanging out with the technician during the PET scan because my heretofore-unwilling-to-show-any-emotion-except-anger-or-rage stepfather was afraid and didn’t want to be alone.
  • Teaching my stepfather the right way to hold the steroid inhaler.
  • Pretending it didn’t bother my bad wrists to have to load up the wheelchair and extra oxygen into my car every time we went to chemo.
  • Running down 5 flights of stairs so fast I almost broke my leg in a fall trying to get to the street as quickly as a I could to catch a cab while booking a flight on my Treo.
  • Driving 90 miles per hour from the airport an hour and a half away from the hospital, because it was the only flight I could get on in time, trying to get to the hospital before he was going to be put into an induced coma for surgery from which they weren’t sure if he’d wake up.
  • Looking through the broconchoscope at the ruined cells and wondering how the hell he was still alive.
  • Watching my mother wear down from her partnership turning into a nursemaid-patient relationship, with a cranky patient.
  • Overhearing, “Do you still love me?” “You’ve made it hard to love you lately,” before taking the train back to NYC, exhausted from so many weekends of coming up to help with cancer care.
  • Helping with stupid chores that could have been done later, like taking an old refrigerator to the dump, because he didn’t want my mom to have to deal with it when he was gone.
  • Sleeping through the call the next day when he died.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. Go lung cancer!

Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer, as well as many other cancers, heart disease (I haven’t started flashing back to my grandmother’s heart disease and subsequent death yet, thankfully — also smoking-related), emphysema, and other bad stuff. Lung cancer rates are going up instead of down, despite how much we know about what smoking does to your body.

Seriously, people: stop smoking. Don’t put your family through this kind of death for you. Is your momentary addictive pleasure really worth their suffering later? Have some compassion for your future kids, your future grandkids, your future spouse, your future friends. Don’t be a selfish ass. Quit smoking now.

Defending Drupal

The last 7 years of my life have been all WordPress, all the time. In that time we went from powering around 2 million sites to many tens of millions. Today, W3Techs says:

WordPress is used by 23.6% of all the websites, that is a content management system market share of 60.8%.

I wish that sentence had a semicolon instead of a comma, but wow. Drupal, by comparison:

Drupal is used by 2.0% of all websites, that is 5.1% of all the websites whose content management system we know.

Sometimes, people like to pit WordPress and Drupal against each other, as if we are fighting each other, rather than fighting proprietary software. At WordCamps, meetups, or any professional gathering where someone asks a question (or makes a snarky comment) about Drupal, I point out that we are far more similar than we are different. “Open source CMS built with PHP” describes us both, as does any description of the contributor model, or even the economic models — how many times have I heard Acquia is to Drupal as Automattic is to WordPress? (A lot.) We’ve even shared booth space at the OSCON expo.

To drive the point home I often say that if you were stuck in an elevator/sitting next to someone on a plane, how psyched would you be to be sitting next to a Drupal person, who would totally get all your references and be able to have a conversation you’d enjoy? That usually gets a nod or two. Because, yeah, we’re a bunch of open source geeks who care way too much about things like software licenses and commit status and number of props. We are, in short, both ridiculous in the grand scheme of things — we’re not curing cancer or ending world hunger. At best we are powering the websites of those who are, and if we ceased to exist tomorrow, it wouldn’t be the end of the world (just of us). But free software is awesome, so yay! Let’s all be friends!

At conferences, people sometimes have been confused if I’m hanging around with Amye or other Drupal women I know and like. They ask, “Aren’t you rivals?” And then we laugh at them. Cue the more-alike-than-different stuff.

So I was kind of bummed today after all those years of defending Drupal and claiming kinship to see it pissing* all over WordPress today. But I should backtrack.

For years, people in the WP community have wished there was a way to pay the more advanced contributors to work on core full-time. Sure, Automattic, 10Up, Human Made, and other companies have been contributing some people, but there are only so many donated employees a company can float. We all get that. For a while people talked about the WordPress Foundation as a way to pay people to work on stuff, but that didn’t wind up being possible. So when people started doing things like Jtrip’s Indiegogo, it was a natural evolution, though it seemed not very scalable.

So when I saw Ruby Together a few weeks ago, I thought it was amazing.

screenshot of rubytogether.org

Then came the Drupal 8 fundraiser, and I thought that was pretty cool too. Matching donations and whatnot!

And then I saw this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.49.35 AM

I smiled, recognizing several people I quite like. But that one in the lower left, what?? I clicked through and saw this:

fundraising website for drupal 8 featuring a graphic of the Drupal logo peeing on the Joomla and WordPress logos

I was like, “What?”

Then I was like, “No, really, what?!”

I get it, this person thought this shirt from a previous Drupal event was funny and would fire people up to donate. But really?

That shirt is so completely tasteless I am horrified that the Drupal community endorses it.

And now we’re back to Drupal is pissing on WordPress.

I’ve given so many talks at WordCamps with a component about how it’s important to be nice, respectful, and welcoming — including the use of appropriate language and imagery — to the point that some people would really like to tell me to shut the fuck** up (or have!). I have extended that “let’s be nice” spiel to talking about Drupal multiple times. I would never design a tshirt that showed the W pissing on the Drupal (and I’ve designed a controversial WordCamp shirt or two in my time) because it’s not funny, it’s just tasteless and disrespectful. So that Drupal shirt makes me sad. I know that probably none of the people I know and like had a hand in making it. But it bums me out that as a community they seem to think it is okay, good even, if they’re willing to put it on the front page of the fundraiser.

“You can feel good about our project without putting down other projects, so let’s keep it clean.” I said something similar (s/our project/yourself) to my nieces and their friends when they were in 9th grade and had a habit of putting down other girls to feel better about themselves (as so many adolescents do). I hope more people will remember this in the future, and just because you can think of a snarky/sarcastic/mean/tasteless joke that elevates your side and pushes down the other doesn’t mean you should.

In any case, one person’s misstep shouldn’t be cause to demonize a whole project community. Assume good intentions. Reach out when something is awry instead of devolving into one-upmanship. Competition is healthy but there’s no reason to be jerks to each other. And also? Thinking there are sides is really silly. We’re all ridiculous open source CMS geeks. We’re all one side. Let’s stand together, y’all.


I’ve always hated the Calvin peeing stickers, and so has Bill Watterson.

** Profanity used intentionally to illustrate that it’s not appropriate language in a welcoming community.

… on a quiet word to music parents (shhh, don’t tell!)

Featured Image -- 4906

Jen Mylo:

This is another reblog test, but also, music is good, and a totally vaild career choice. :)

Originally posted on just ponderin':

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Number One Son Sam, Jazz Student, on the Big Bass

Okay. Firstly….

Breathe.

It looks like little Johnny’s or Susie’s interest in the drums, or sax, or bass…

Or guitar, or piano, or clarinet, or flute, or didgeridoo…

Or that cute little triangle thingie they used to give you if you couldn’t play anything else, has lasted through elementary and middle school.

And now it looks like that cute little hobby that was supposed to stay a hobby has grown up and maniacally land-war’d itself into Potential Vocation territory, crushing the once-safe provinces of Medicine, Engineering, Nursing, Plumbing, Law, Accounting, and/or Fashion Merchandising along the way.

Particle Physics is still hanging on, but it doesn’t look good.

And you know this has happened because your perfect cherub just walked into the room and told you that they want to be… wait for it…

A musician.

Yes, they did tell you that.

Yes, they…

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On Blog Comments

Jen Mylo:

I’m mostly testing the reblog feature right now, but this post by Christine Lee about comments was good. :)

Originally posted on Press Publish:

Comments from readers are some of the most gratifying parts of blogging. Someone’s reading! Someone felt compelled to send a note!

Even more gratifying is when a lurker de-lurks and identifies him or herself. Those are times when I’ve re-read my post to see what on earth it was about THAT post that got someone to shed their anonymity, and introduce themselves.

It is very much like inviting guests into your home, and making a connection. And sometimes, making very good friends as they return repeatedly for your hospitality, and you in turn, invite them to return for their good grace.

So how do we make our home and blog inviting? And what it is that keeps people returning?

I’ve found that it’s about making your blog safe–and curating the comments, should people disagree and escalate disagreement into barbs. It’s starting a dialogue in your own post, and then facilitating…

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