Archive for the ‘Depression’ Category

Carpe Diem

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W.H. Auden

Today, I heard that a friend died. In my life, I have to say, I’ve been largely untouched by death. Of course people I have known died, but not too many people close to me. My grandparents died when I was pretty young, and I hardly knew them because we moved with the Army in those days. And I heard of a few deaths from people I went to school with, but I heard long after I was gone from there and long since I had known them.

My sweet Rottweiler, Detta, was really my first major death. I had her for 13 years, since she was just a ball of fur, and it hit me hard. She died of cancer, and my dad had recently been diagnosed, and that just made it that much harder.

And then my dad died. He’s been gone since 2007 and still sometimes I’m caught short, wanting to call him, to share some news with him, to ask him something.

And of course, there is the quite recent death of Bodhi, a stalwart and near constant companion for the last nine years. You know all about him, so I won’t go into that.

Tonight I found out a close friend died. And this poem was the first thing that popped into my head. I tried to shake it – it didn’t seem quite right. I remember John Hannah reciting it at the funeral of his partner in Four Weddings and A Funeral and I thought, that’s not me at all. We hadn’t built a life together, we didn’t have the history that that poem speaks to…and yet.

Here’s to the grief of the never-to-be, the sorrow of the I-was-going-to.

To the pain of could-have-been, the remorse of the wish-I-would-have.

Here’s to the plane not taken, the call not made.

To the time not spent, to the press of the mundane.

If you are reading this, there’s a good chance I love you. This is my reminder (to me, and yes, to you) to step out, people, take the leap. Do the thing, whatever it is. Don’t wait.

And remember this poem, by Shel Silverstein.

Listen to the mustn'ts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Tis the Season?

The other day I wrote a long, sad email about all the ways I feel bad in my life. When I was done, it was a large, solid block of text, no indentations, no paragraphs, just words. Ugh.

Before sending that on to the person who willingly reads such malarky from me, I stopped, and wrote a gratitude list (something that she and I do to support each other), because I knew complaining all my complaints was not actually helping my mood one bit. By the time I was done with that, I didn’t feel as much like sending that letter.

And then the next day I felt a tiny bit better. Hooray!!!

But today I am back to ugh. I don’t know why I can’t stop myself from feeling this.

Hahahahhaahahahaha. That’s crazed, maniacal laughter, there. That’s hilarious, right, that I am trying to stop my feelings of hopelessness with…I dunno, thoughts of how bad I suck at doing that?

Some days, not sunshine, nor puppies, nor years of education can hold back the nothing.

the nothing

The Big Bad D

Depression is bad, you know. It’s sneaky, too, and deceptive.

sneakysylvester

The thing about depression isn’t just that it makes people feel sad. I mean, of course, that’s the symptom that everyone knows about, and the one that for some strange reason prompts people to think of depression as something silly, that people can fix on their own, or talk themselves out of. Read this fabulous rant about it here.

 

634-AngryTeenGirl.220w.tnIf it isn’t enough to have people tell you that it’s about some bad habits, depression shows up in other ways, too. Working in the field, I’m well aware of some of the ways it shows up in kids, for instance. In young kids, it shows up as “behavioral” problems, and sometimes somatic symptoms, things like stomach aches. In teens it can show up as irritable mood.

 

I’ve written about the way I experience it before, which you can find here and here.

 

All this is to say that depression isn’t new to me. And yet, I still find myself surprised when I have difficulty concentrating, and staying focused. I’m surprised when I find that I don’t enjoy things that I used to enjoy. I find myself pulling away from people who care about me, and then I’m surprised that I feel sad and lonely when they are gone. I find myself irritable for no apparent reason, tired when I’ve slept plenty and having stomach aches. I’m surprised when studying doesn’t seem to sink in.

 

 

It’s sneaky, that depression, and it creeps up on you.

sylvester006

Anyone know where I can rent a kangaroo?

Hippety_sylvester

Who knows?

Life is a confusing place sometimes, no? I mean, who knows what the hell is going on from moment to moment? I’ve suffered from depression for a long time now, and dude, I work in the field, and even I don’t always get what’s going on with my own self.

When I first started to see a therapist, my mom asked me, “But why? What are you depressed about?” Her take on it was first that I had a pretty good life, which she was right about. And secondly, that if I just “turned it all over to god” I’d be happier, which was an idea I just couldn’t get behind. I mean, in the broadest, most Buddhist sense, I do get that being attached to – things, people, ideas, outcomes – often results in pain. In that way, I can frequently do just as she says (with a little word-wrangling) and let it go.

But depression isn’t about any of those things. It isn’t about where I am, or who I’m with. It isn’t about what I’m doing or even how I’m doing. I mean, really, when I think about it objectively, my life IS good. In so many ways. Of course there are areas that are happier and areas that are less happy, and certainly I’m not claiming perfection (except in the sense that I try to remember that everything is unfolding perfectly) but yeah, my life is good. I know that. And I know all about stopping to smell the roses, too. For a rant on that idea – check out The DIY Couturier’s.

None of this can stop the mean reds, however.

Even if I sit and list all my favorite things, my best or most recent successes, the people I love who love me back, or the many ways that I enjoy my world, none of that can hold back the nothing.

The question isn’t “why am I depressed?”  Or “what do I have to be depressed about?” The question is, “What now?”

What’s in your brain?

I just finished reading Towelhead, by Alicia Erian. This is a wonderful and disturbing novel. It is a coming of age story about Jasira, a 13 year old Lebanese American girl. I like coming of age stories, and I like this one too, but her sadly dysfunctional family and predatory neighbor gives it a decidedly dark twist.

This isn’t a book review. You can find all you want online and I don’t like to tell too much about a story, anyway. What I want to talk about is how the book affected me. This has happened to me before, and I’m wondering about other people’s experiences. I read the book over the course of two days, staying up till 4:30 am then waking up to finish it in late morning.

Once I finished the book, I got busy with my task of the day – more book packing. I sorted through two shelves of books but I found myself feeling sluggish, so took a quick break to take Bodhi out. Standing outside in the yard, I felt a wave of sadness come over me. I thought it might be related to packing and spending too many hours alone. I came in to the apartment, wandered around the living room and kitchen for a few minutes, but couldn’t get focused.

It took me another half hour to realize that my feelings were directly related to the book. What I was feeling was not sadness about leaving, but deep grief for the character in the book. The first person descriptions were so realistic that I felt a bit like I had been sitting with the main character, as if she were a real person. Except that the book covered a good bit of time in (for me) just two sittings and my empathy bag was overflowing.

I read a study recently that described the ways that the brain is essentially unable to tell “real life” from television, movies and books and I knew just what they were referring to. (a link to a NYT article about this research – I think I read about it in a book but this explains the idea) I spoke to some people about it and we all joked about feeling like characters from TV shows in particular feel like friends of ours. We talked about “missing” characters that left shows and being sad at the end of a series. 

No one else that I spoke to talked about books, though. I remember reading a book about a woman in a moderately bad relationship – no physical abuse but her partner consistently undermined her – and during that time I found myself rather short tempered with my own partner. It wasn’t until the book was over and the character’s issue was resolved that I realized my snippiness was related to the book.

I’d be interested to hear about other readers’ experiences. The one’s I noticed in myself of have mostly been sad/angry feelings. What books have moved you so much so that you carried those feelings around with you? Have you read books who’s joy or humor perked up your mood?

I’m especially interested in books that cheer you up. The other two books I’m reading at the moment are Death at SeaWorld and Poe and Fanny – I might need to read something else first.

Bad break-up, anyone?

I don’t “get” the gut-wrenching break-up. I really, really don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I have never suffered before, during and after a break-up. I’m not saying I haven’t been mad, or hurt or even bitter about a break-up. I have. All those things. And I have been mad about what some ex said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do. All that. Breaking up is sad, painful and difficult. I’m not talking about that at all. What I am talking about is the kind of break-up where your gut is actually wrenched (is that a word?) – where you feel your stomach tied in knots, where every contact is painful, where people feel the need to vilify their ex’s.

…or worse…

I have heard about this phenomenon many times. From family, friends and clients. I have heard stories of ex’s who fight over golf clubs and/or parenting schedules with equal ferocity. I have heard of ex’s purposely disagreeing with the other merely for the effect of watching them squirm (I mean I’ve heard it from the one’s doing it, not just the one squirming). I’ve heard of ex’s who make visitation schedules ridiculous to the point of making it almost impossible to keep up with.

I’ve heard from people in the throes of these situations about the effect it has on their physical and mental health. Stomachs tight with worry and anticipation of the next shoe (to drop), ulcers and compulsive nail biting. Deep depressions or high anxiety (sometimes both!), difficulty concentrating, sleeping, eating, even driving.

I think the toughest part that I’ve heard about is they way people feel when they are in the middle of this kind of break-up. I’ve heard that people start to question themselves in the middle of all this, they start to genuinely feel as if they are going crazy – as if one should somehow be able to handle all of this insanity. In sitting with my friends over the years, I offered a supportive shoulder. With clients, I listened and did my best to help them to manage their own out-of-control emotions.

But all along, I had never had one of my own. And let me tell you, I have had a good number of break-ups in my time. For lots of different reasons. I mean, I’ve been dating since I was 15 years old. And I’m single today. Lots of break-ups. But none that sounded remotely like the ones people tell me about.

I’ve heard it said before that you can’t take someone where you’ve never been (often in reference to therapy and addiction counseling). In some ways over the years, I have agreed with this idea, knowing that some of the time I am able to be helpful because I have “been there.” However, I also know that I have helped people (by their account) who’s experiences were radically different from my own.

Now that I’ve had my very own experience, I gotta tell you, I don’t know how this will help me help anyone at all. I don’t even think that my own experience of a deeply disturbing gut-wrenching break-up will make me more empathetic. In fact, it might just trigger some kind of horrible PTSD-type reaction! I certainly never want to experience anything like that ever again.

And it’s so useless! The first line of this post is still true, even though I’ve experienced it first hand. I still don’t get it. Because guess what? The whole gut-wrenching, name-calling, angry emails, texts and phone calls did not make anything better. The relationship was over, and it’s still over. Only now it’s over with lots of extra bad feelings, with no chance of friendship or trust. Now it’s over and there’s a hole, a piece missing from my life that I don’t even want to think about. Now it’s over and instead of being able to look back at the parts that were good, they’re all colored over by this horrible coating of ick.

When it’s over, it’s over. Cut your losses and go. Say goodbye and go gracefully. Or say fuck you if you feel like you need to, then drive away. That way when you look back you can really what’s back there, rather than just seeing that wall of ick. You can pick out the good things and put the not-so-great ones in perspective. Can we just make a pact to give up the gut wrenching break-up?

Come into my circle…

I am a Deepak Chopra fan. It’s true. Although I would admit that freely a few years ago, now I feel I need at least a tiny disclaimer. I love much of what he wrote all the way up to his 1995 book, The Way of the Wizard: Twenty Spiritual Lessons in Creating the Life You Want. I don’t think I made it through that one, and I’m sure I didn’t manage the next few. I know he’s written many books since then, and I’m not saying I don’t like them, just that there just seemed to be so many – I got overwhelmed. I saw him speak in person at Mile Hi once and was completely wowed.

One of the simple books I really liked was Creating Affluence: The A-to-Z Steps to a Richer Life. If you are familiar with Deepak and Science f Mind, none of this will seem new to you. If not, just briefly, the idea is that we create our experiences through our thinking. His book was a way to use simple mnemonics to remind yourself to stay focused on the affluence in your life – the kind you have already as well as the kind you’d like to increase.

As you’ve probably heard me say – words are important. Go around saying, “That’s just too hard for me” and it probably will be. Walk around saying, “Everyone around here sucks” and you will be all set to recognize the worst in people. It’s not that the words/thoughts are MAKING other people crabby, but your perception of them is filtered through your own crabby lens. Conversely, if you are having a great day, just got a raise or had a great time with a loved one, you are more likely to be thinking, “I can manage this” and “the staff at this place really do a great job.” And voila, your perception of them will be more positive.

Again, it isn’t that you thinking that they were great necessarily improved their service, but your brain is hooked on that confirmation bias – you are looking for evidence that the staff is impressive. Just one quick caution. If a person is feeling particularly down, no amount of positive phrases is going to “snap them out of it.” Telling someone to “look at the bright side” might just get you a nasty glare and bad reputation. These things work best when they come from within the person – when they are ready.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Facebook asking for someone to talk to me about my dissertation. My committee chair is not particularly touchy-feely and sometimes I feel dumb asking questions (which is my own thing). I have never written a dissertation before, thank you very much, and I don’t know many people who have and no one in the same field. A friend I hadn’t spoken to in at least a couple of months volunteered, and that conversation provided me with some real momentum.

Next, a Twitter friend offered to look at my dissertation. For those of you who don’t know, a Twitter friend is someone you only know on Twitter. She is a freelance editor and her offer was even more important because it came at a time when I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed frequently when it comes to the details of completing my doctorate, and my situation often leaves me feeling all alone in the world. I know that I am not, in fact, all alone in the world, but that fact does not necessarily keep me from feeling that way. If you’ve read the blog, you’ll know that feeling alone is kind of a theme for me lately.

Back to Deepak. As I said, the book uses simple mnemonics to help you to keep your mind focused on abundance. He has a catchy phrase or two to go with each letter. I liked the book, then listened to the cassette tape, later bought the CD which I eventually put on my ipod. I’ve heard it many times. I have some of those phrases memorized. I usually don’t listen when I need it most (note the caution above), because when I’m pretty low I tend to say all that is just a bunch of hooey (or the term I learned just a couple of years ago, “woo”). One of the mneonics that he offers for the letter T is that it stands for Talent Bank. The first time I read that, I think I started to think of all the things I’m not talented at and thought, well, that’s not very useful. Luckily I read on.

Talent bank – In order to maximize creativity and offer the best service, it is good to develop a talent bank or a coterie of individuals with unique and diverse talents and abilities and whose individual talents, when added together, are more than the sum of the parts. -Deepak Chopra

That’s good thinking, man. That makes sense to me and is such a relief! I don’t need to be ultra-talented at everything – I only need to remember to gather around me individuals with differing skill sets, so that I can lean on them when I need them.

Thanks, all you talented people in my life, for helping me do whatever it is that you do best, better. I appreciate each and every one of you, and hope that my talents add to your lives.

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