Valentine’s Day – My Least Favorite Day as a Divorcé

Not going to sugar coat this one, Valentine’s as a divorced guy is not my favorite time of year. Add to that my allergy to chocolate and well Feb 15th isn’t exactly something to look forward to either.

I think for a lot of folks there’s a difficulty in understanding what those suffering from anxiety and depression go through during holidays meant to celebrate togetherness. One thing keeps popping back up into my mind which is that love is something that you need to have for yourself in order to be able to share it. It sounds horribly cliche but I understand the concept. I’m not there to be honest and that’s tempered how I view relationships and the future quite a bit. Still, I look at Valentine’s as a time to look at who I am, where I’ve come and where I still need to improve and try to be happy with the me that I see in the mirror.

Happened upon this little ‘tips’ post from Anxiety.org which might be an interesting read for some.
https://www.anxiety.org/relationship-guide-getting-through-valentines-day

If you’re having a hard time this Valentine’s, coming off a break up, there’s also this very pointed vlog from Anna Akana about dealing with breakups. Despite my divorce being nearly two years old now, I still found her post to be a good remind of the things you need to do to process things.

No matter what situation you are in relationship wise, if you’re dealing with any form of mental illness and find this particular holiday season difficult, reach out, get in touch with people in your support network or even other mental health communities. Take that step to communicate about what you’re dealing. Stay safe folks.

Language Use and Depression

https://theconversation.com/people-with-depression-use-language-differently-heres-how-to-spot-it-90877

This was one of the more intriguing articles I came across recently. The idea that the use of language can be an indicator of depression is both compelling and worth self-reflection in my case.

My college background included bits of linguistics, neuroscience and computer programming, a weird focus yes but I’ve found some of what I learned has helped me to understand my own depression a bit more. Personal pronoun use certainly became something I found myself slipping into much more as my depression worsened. Isolation I think does that to you though, you interact so little and have such limited common ground that the only thing you have a frame of reference for is yourself. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with the idea that it’s strictly a self-focused symptom but I can see how it may manifest.

The more markers of depression we understand, the more we learn to catch ourselves and take action the better. I just worry that as we uncover what seem to be associations with patterns of behavior or linguistic signposts that we start to see depression everywhere, even when it may not necessarily be an accurate diagnosis. So take articles like the above with a grain of salt, but don’t be afraid to ask the question, “Are you doing ok?” of your friends, or yourself.

Depression and The Ability to Converse

One of the things I’ve noticed over my first few years post-depression-diagnosis is that I sense I’ve become harder and harder to converse with. I still maintain conversations with my closest circle of friends, my therapist and coworkers but friends who were more casual friends I feel I’ve taken to become a ‘one-liner’.

It’s an odd feeling, to feel like any attempt to start a conversation is met with sort of a one-line response. Emails, instant messenger apps, all of these mechanisms cease to be conversations and become a one line banter or response often feeling more frustrating than fulfilling. At times I can’t tell if it’s just me, them, or a multitude of factors.

I’d imagine others experience the same type of issue. I often can’t tell if it’s because I’ve become too self-focused when I speak to others which makes the conversation very one sided or it is that people from my circle of friends don’t know how or what to say anymore. I realize that awkward or not I still have to put in the effort to converse but I do worry that it’s a balancing act. I converse just enough to let others know I’m still ‘around’ and OK, but I won’t have many easy-flowing conversations.

Photography: Depression — A Night In

Rarely have I picked up my camera in the last two years. To be honest, I’ve probably done more ‘shooting’ at the range than I have behind the lens in the last four years.

The face of depression is something I deal with constantly and it’s often hard to describe to people what it means to live with it day in and day out.

A Night In

I happened upon my reading light and my usual ‘before bed’ get up and thought the angle and framing told the right narrative. A small area of light, surrounded by mostly darkness. A sense of something comfortable yet also an intangible discomfort. Those are some of the themes and senses I get from my depression. Everyone’s depression is different and I hope perhaps someone viewing this may find common ground. Don’t give up, don’t let depression win. Express yourself even if it’s just something simple as a photo before bed.

Different Perspective on the Diagnosis Treatment of Depression

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/07/is-everything-you-think-you-know-about-depression-wrong-johann-hari-lost-connections?CMP=share_btn_tw&__twitter_impression=true

Depression is approached from a myriad of ways. There’s no real silver bullet in its diagnosis as there are a number of factors at play.  Neurological, behavioral, environmental variables are all a part of it.

For me a combination of diet, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and changes in hobbies have helped stem the tide of depression but it’s not the same for everyone. The article above by Johann Hari; an extract from his book Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutionsl  delivers an interesting perspective. The notion that another factor in depression relates to a sense of self worth and how people view their work life or other unfulfilled needs. Personally I would say I have for many years been a workaholic. I enjoyed challenges and the job generally was fulfilling. As the years continued though I know my satisfaction wavered here and there. Eventually I had to depersonalize my job as I felt it was a major factor in my increasing depression.  These days, while I still have the same job, I try to frame the challenges within it differently. I don’t treat the ups and downs of my job as a reflection of who I am as a person. While it’s helped, it’s still an ongoing struggle. I enjoy what I do, not always the other conditions around it.

While this is obviously not something necessarily easily changed it provides another angle with which to attack the problem. I’ve always been a proponent that any been of information is ammo in a fight and this is just another resource to be considered.

New Treatment Alternatives for Depression — Magic Mushrooms

Magic mushroom compound might treat depression by reviving emotional responsiveness in the brain

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen posts regarding the ongoing research being conducted in using magic mushrooms to help treat depression but it’s interesting that it’s been cropping up more and more.  Psilocybin as part of a treatment regimen sounds promising, though most studies I’ve read indicate it’s use in Major Depressive Disorder I do wonder how it may be applied to more mild forms of depression.

The main take away I’ve had from a lot of these studies tends to be that we’re still a bit of a ways off on understanding how the diff treatment courses may have to be tailored per patient and what areas of affect actually yield the best return.

For myself I’ve mainly focused on lifestyle change and supplements intended to help with general brain health and serotonin production. While not as intense as a full SSRI treatment I’ve had an easier time with emotional fortitude (for lack of a better term) than I have in the past. It would be my hope that if this treatment course gains traction that it becomes more readily available as something that HMO’s will be more apt to adding to their formularies.

 

 

Coping with the New Years and Depression

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/d343ex/why-is-new-years-eve-so-depressing

Where does the time go right? It’s just a stones throw away to 2018. Found the above article and gave it a once over.  It’s a good read and one that I think some people will benefit from. Rumination is something I’ve struggled with quite a bit and for some of my friends who also suffer from depression and anxiety I know it’s one of those recurrent specters that always lurks around the corner. There are maybe three times a year where I start to slide down that slippery slope and New Years is definitely the most painful.

I’ve generally found that with mental health issues there’s two fundamental approaches that are taken.  Some focus on processing through the things that make you fearful, or exposing yourself to them so that you learn to face your aversion. The other is learning to steer clear of those triggers and finding a way to be mindful of it.  New Years is one of those times where social interaction and gathering with friends is the norm.  I’ve never liked crowds, and especially hate the idea of forced fun. New Years and New Years Eve celebrations have always been something I went to for the sake of others. Fake it till you make it types of moments. In the past, when I was dating or married I’d go along with it as it was my duty as a boyfriend or spouse. These days I don’t try to push myself out there unless I’m comfortable. Now some folks will look at that and just argue that I’m simply letting depression win, that I’m not changing things for the better. On the contrary however, just because I’m not out celebrating doesn’t mean I’m not processing through things. In the past I’d go out, have a few drinks, try to fake a smile and say all the usual platitudes.  “Oh it’s an awesome year and I’m so grateful.” Regardless of how I actually felt about the state of things. These days, I stopped trying to put on that face.

The past few years I’ve spent New Years at home, curled up with a book, my journal and my tech. I know that I’m going to reminisce, I know I’ll look back at the things I’ve lost, the person I was and what’s changed. That’s bad though is what you’re thinking right? You’d be half right. I look back, I recognize that things are different, but I also try to look at how I’ve weathered the storm, how I’ve changed little by little. I focus on re-framing my replay of memories and focus on what has changed for the better, or what I know I should focus on for the next year. When you have depression and anxiety getting sucked TOO far into nostalgia is dangerous so I always have to pace myself. I don’t get so engrossed in going backwards that I stop looking ahead.  I read through my journal and remember how I got through the rough times. I look at my projects and see that I finished something or I made progress. That keeps me going, that gives me ideas for the next year. I’m not out to be seen, I shun fame and attention. I don’t try to impress folks with my accolades anymore. I just try to see the good things in me that I should continue to nurture or the things I need to try and improve.

If you’re facing that sense of dread as the year winds down I fully understand. It’s easy to start stacking up those memories like dominoes and watching them fall. Re-framing how you view the last year is not trivial, it takes time. If you’re struggling reach out, be heard. Don’t let how everyone else celebrates dictate undue pressure on you. If you want to be around friends, that’s great, find friends you can trust and an activity that works. If you know drinking or other triggers are there, let folks know. The holidays are stressful and sad for a lot of folks but finding a safe way to navigate it pays out in the end.

 

Studies on Ketamine in Fighting Suicidal Ideation

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171214164014.htm

The holidays can be stressful for some but for those people fighting depression the double-whammy of existing conditions and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can be a very difficult combo.

Came across the above news in several articles regarding the use of ketamine as a way to help reduce suicidal ideation in patients. While I found the article optimistic, I do hope folks tread cautiously.  Ketamine’s addictive attributes make weaning off a frightening prospect. I do hope however that if the treatment proves fruitful that it will be another resource that people with depression can seek when stressors and their existing treatment course don’t seem to be enough.

As ever, if you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out to your mental health professional or a hotline. Link to the Suicide Prevention Hotline and their website below.

Suicide Prevention Hotline
1-800-273-8255

 

The Rise of Bullying and Increase in Suicides – Social Commentary

https://www.theroot.com/10-year-old-girl-killed-herself-after-video-of-fight-wi-1820887617

I don’t have children but I cannot fathom the pain of losing a child so young to suicide. It’s a very scary commentary on where we are as a culture, where kids would rather take their own lives than try to struggle through ridicule and bullying. I think most adults don’t realize that now the torment doesn’t stop when you hop onto the bus and get home.

When adults mock everyone and use stupid reasons to prejudice it trickles down to their children. I’ve always wondered just what aspects of the power dynamic of bullying have lead us to where we are today. I dealt with my share of bullying, after all I was a typical geek in school.  My biggest fear even when my ex-wife and I were trying for kids was that I was ill prepared to deal with teaching right and wrong in a way that stuck. Don’t know that I’ll have that chance, but I do hope that parents out there are imparting a sense of responsibility for actions and that teaching that trying to bully someone is not a sign of strength, it’s weakness.

(For US Residents) If you know someone who is at risk for suicide please consider sharing the National Suicide Hotline information to them.

1-800-273-8255

There are also chat options available at:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Work/Life Balance and Detaching from Work (Article)

https://www.thecut.com/2017/11/how-to-emotionally-detach-from-work.html

I happened upon this earlier this month and it got me thinking about several subjects. One thing that is true of me is that my dysthymia isn’t at a severity where I cease to be able to work. On the contrary I think some of my workaholic tendencies stem from a coping mechanism which isn’t necessarily completely healthy.

Kristin Wong’s post is a good review of the need to frame your attachment to work in a mental model that is productive but not all encompassing. Losing your identity to your job is a dangerous slope. It makes set back sand challenges too personal and starts to chip away at your sense of self and self-worth. For me the idea of not complaining about work is a challenge, especially being a tech employee where it sometimes seems like a myriad of things can and do go wrong.

I’m guilty of working long hours and bulldogging problems to the point that I do think I’ve taken too much work home with me both physically and emotionally.  I’m trying to fit my balance and objectivity about work so that I don’t really care when things don’t go well as long as I feel I am putting forth what is right both business wise and personally.