Living in a state that doesn’t really get the same severity of weather change as my mainland counterparts I’ve never really thought of myself as being prone to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but lately my April has been extremely rainy. As I’ve been tracking my mood more I’ve wondered if I may suffer from mild SAD or if it’s just another manifestation of my dysthymic disorder
The idea that the seasonal shift and weather affect mood isn’t new, the idea of winter blahs is pretty old. For me while the weather used to affect me slightly (mostly in terms of lethargy) it wasn’t until my divorce and subsequent depressive episode that I really started to examine the impact the weather had on me. If you notice your mood and depression is heavily influenced by the season changes you may want to give the article above a quick look.
For me the early indicators have been the increase in laziness, a general dislike of going outside and diminished appetite when the weather turns. I’ve tried to counter act those influences by using a warmer light setting on my adjustable LED lamp that I keep near my bedside, reducing red meat and increasing whole grains and fruits. It’s certainly not fool proof but it helps get me out of the ‘I’m dragging’ feeling so that I can at least move about the house and try to get things done. With the cold, decreased sunlight and rain (especially for me) the instinct to curl up in a bed and just let things pass you by is really hard to overcome but small nuanced changes do help. This time last year I doubt I’d be writing as much or even having any interest in seeing what’s going on in the world. The mood outside affected or magnified my already depressive mood. These days I’m more aware of the direction of my mental state and rather than try to dramatically shift it, I’ve found mechanisms to nudge it back into a safer direction.
If you think you might suffer from a form of depressive disorder talk to a physician or a therapist, see about things you can do to help you manage the symptoms.
One of the difficult things about depression is how it manifests from person to person with a lot of variation, even more so how it does so between genders.
I’m guilty of not being able to see my own depression as it became worse over several years. Personally I tried to deflect and often attributed it to stress, fatigue and sleep issues. The above article was a good review and reminder that there’s a spectrum to depression which isn’t always easy to identify.
From my own experiences it’s also extremely difficult to get someone suffering from depression to spot their own signs. I was very dismissive of it and it cost me greatly. The approach for everyone may be very different from person to person but a lot of times frustrated spouses and friends may come at the issue a bit hard and critical. For me at least that approach made me recoil inward even more and in some ways built my own frustration. If you have a loved one whom you suspect is suffering from a form of depression, let them know you’re worried, let them know you’re concerned and offer to just listen to what’s bothering them. A lot of times it’s just being heard that it’s the first step. Recommend therapy or other activities to help as coping tools, but try to do so constructively and not as a criticism or implication that they are somehow broken. Depression in it’s many variations is difficult to manage and even harder at times to spot but a good support does wonders.
April is quickly becoming one of my least favorite months. Besides tax time; which already sucks; it also marks the anniversary of my divorce. As my marriage ended I thought filing shortly around tax time would be a good choice, we’d have filed the last set of taxes we would need to jointly and then that was it.
All that doesn’t make April any easier though. Oddly I’ve been reluctant to listen to much in the way of music this month as often music triggers pretty strong memories for me. Gave it a whirl though, mostly listening to older rock tracks and I happened upon a band that I first listened to a few years ago on YouTube.
Preemptive warning — The lyrics to this song are not kind in the slightest but the emotion and anger are connecting with a part of me that I need to just sort of get out there. Stop here if you don’t feel this is your thing.
Sometimes you can’t find the words, and I appreciate that musicians are out there belting out finger numbing riffs and throaty emotion laden lyrics. The band’s name is also a reminder to me that I have to keep moving forward, so thanks I Prevail. If this track was something could relate to, please be sure to check the band’s site and considering supporting the band with a purchase (available on iTunes and Google Play)
I will preface this post by saying if you are sensitive to humor that is self deprecating at times or that tries to make light of mental health then these may not be good sites for you to click on. I know that mental health issues are very serious and using humor to defuse some of the pain isn’t for everyone, so please consider your stance before you read further.
Humor was often my defense mechanism when depression or social anxiety would rear its ugly head. After my divorce and formal diagnosis I tried to really understand my actions and my responses to things on a more conscious level. Web comics, especially those that deal with mental health topics, were a way to sort of relate to the pain and challenges in a more light hearted way.
James F Regan pulls no punches when he tries to bring to light the difficulty in battling depression, adulthood and disappointment. His brutal honesty and character style immediately struck a chord with me. His web comic is still relatively new but I find it very topical and relatable.
Sarah Andersen’s web comic has been going on for several years and her approachable art style and depictions are a great way to connect to topics relating to anxiety.
These are just two of the web comics I’ve started to follow but if you’re the type who finds humor very cathartic, even in the face of adverse circumstances, consider adding these two authors to your list.
I’m an IT person by trade, originally a programmer then later a focus in system administration. I’ve read several articles that IT as a profession (probably due in part to high stress levels) is known to have a severe issue with mental health and depression in particular.
At my best typically when solving problems so one of the coping mechanisms I’ve tried to adopt has been forcing myself to run through projects and self-paced training. I’ve often worked on things called Intel NUCs, little compact mini-PCs that have allowed me to train on the newest versions of Windows and test/practice installations of applications and things I need for work. It can be costly, but then again so are classes and training courses. (Example of what I work on: https://lab-rat.com.au/2017/04/01/supermicro-vs-intel-nuc/)
The most difficult thing I’ve found with anhedonia and depression has been lack of motivation. Knowing I have a problem to solve and that the training benefits me work-wise has helped to keep me on track. Finding things that allow you to sink your teeth into them and not allowing yourself to fall further into depression is probably one of the biggest challenges that I’ve come to understand. There’s certainly mornings where I don’t want to get moving at all, where the bed feels like it’s where I should be all day. One day at a time I try to force myself not to give in to those instincts, I seek a problem and learning how to work through it gives me that small bit of reward I need to move onto the next day. If you’re finding yourself dragging, work both in and out of your comfort zone until you find something that has that perfect degree of reward that you can turn it into a habit.
I thought this was a really interesting article as I’m a child of divorce myself. My folks separated in my teens and divorced right around my HS years. Their divorce wasn’t pleasant at all and honestly I can say that I don’t really have a relationship with my father. Seeing how this couple has tried to keep something of a family structure for their son was heart warming.
There’s a fairly common saying that you divorce spouses not children. Thankfully for me my ex and I didn’t conceive. Honest truth is I doubt I’d have been able to survive to even make it to therapy if we had children. One thing to lose a spouse, quite another to lose a spouse and children. I understand a bit better the extent to which my father likely experienced his own depression but I also realize that like my mother he made choices too.
I think it would be great if other divorced families tried to be as civil as the couple in the article. Even amid divorce you have to understand the need to prioritize things. The truth is divorce is a loss it isn’t a clean cut, there’s pain, there’s resentment that can creep into every word, every image. It isn’t easy but you have to work past it and focus on the the things you need to do over the things you want to do sometimes. Legal separation of assets, finances, liability, all those things are critical, but you must also not lose sense of things like insuring your kids aren’t caught in the cross fire.
The first step is always the hardest; that was certainly the case for me. Prevailing stigma around mental health often leads to a compounded issue where there’s so much pressure to hide that you fail to seek help.
In my case my choice to seek help came too late to save my marriage but perhaps prevented me from falling further down the rabbit hole and certainly took me back from risk for suicide. As an Asian-American male there’s a lot of cultural stigma not only for being a guy but on both ends of my cultural spectrum.
I’ve been happy to see the increasing public awareness towards depression and anxiety, but there’s still a considerable amount of negative stigma and assumed ‘risk’ for folks suffering from more severe cases such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and others. As a hunter and gun owner I can tell you when I was diagnosed I worried constantly that I was a danger to myself and others. Thankfully with the help of a good circle of friends whom I trust with my firearms I have a way to drop my risk factors when I feel a depressive episode forming. CBT and a lot more personal awareness and diligence have done their part as well. There’s no instant solution; of that I’m always conscious; but every little bit helps.
One of the difficult things I’ve struggled with amid my divorce has been a sort of looping self-hate. It isn’t easy when you look at the failure of marriage and one of the immediate things you factor is yourself.
These days I look back and I feel very toxic, as though I was simply something that a spouse would want to get away from. The rational side of me understands that’s only part of the equation. There were many factors at work. Some that I contributed, some that she did. Knowing that however doesn’t make waking up and looking in the mirror any easier. It’s a weird feeling, wanting to avert your eyes from yourself.
Little by little I’ve tried to find ways to be comfortable in my own skin but that has been the longest road of all in this journey of recovery. There’s days I drift off the road and into the bramble, days I’d rather punch the mirror than go through my morning shave. Every day, a small step away from the things that happened, the things I can’t change to something I can try to change.
For anyone else staring down that insufferably long road, I know how you feel. Sometimes you just want to stop moving forward, stopping on the side and letting everything else pass you by. It’s the easiest route, but it doesn’t change anything to get stuck there. Every step, every day is a little progress to something different, even if you don’t see it now. Sounds like an over idealistic bit of drivel doesn’t it? I know, that sarcastic snap back is almost reflexive for me too but the idea isn’t wrong. If you’re having a hard time on the road right now, give it time. I’m not looking for fast changes any time soon myself but I’m going to keep trying to take those steps forward, because the alternatives don’t appeal much to me either.
It might just be my personal opinion but I’ve always felt like depression is in some ways like a perpetual April Fools. Every morning you wake and depression has something lined up to trick your mind into perceiving things in the worst possible ways.
I have to remind myself frequently that being more likely to suffer from depression isn’t a choice. Fighting against depression however is and it’s a choice I make every day. At times it’s exhausting but I know in the long run it’s what I need to do.
So today if you’re feeling like depression is playing another one of its cruel jokes, keep moving forward, focus on your treatment courses, medication, CBT whatever it may be and don’t let depression get one over on you.
Considering the topic of my last blog post finding this article was very interesting. I’ve often wondered how much of an impact depression and loneliness has on general health and recovery. While the idea of positive mental attitude when ill has been around for a very long time, it was refreshing to see a recent study.
I don’t necessarily think that the study and its methodology aren’t without fault but I think people who are already experiencing loneliness could perceive illness as another indicator of isolation. For me in some ways I view the solitude and depression when I’m ill as just another layer that affects my ability to interact with others. Either way it’s an additional reminder that I have to be more mindful of my health than perhaps some other folks.