As much as I love technology it has been both a blessing and a curse for me. Previously I rarely used my iPad unless I was on the road or traveling. These days I use it almost every day as sort of “background tech”.
Following my divorce I found myself having the hardest time getting my mind to unhook from negativity and loneliness. In a cruel twist of irony though my anxiety made social interaction difficult at times in crowds and in public. So I was left with a quandary. How do you feel less alone when alone? For me it became always having background noise or dialogue be it shows or movies in the background. Not directly in line of sight, just off to the side on my iPad.
This slippery slope however is something I’ve had to try to balance. It doesn’t interrupt my job it sort of becomes the din behind me. Replacing the normal banter heard in any office setting or workplace without the rise in anxiety. Slowly I’ve tried to ween myself off it, but it’s a gradual thing. Silence you see is something I fear. Those gaps, that idle time when it’s just me and my thoughts is a dangerous place. There’s the phrase of idle hands are the devils workshop. When you suffer from depression and anxiety that statement becomes more true to me and really silence is your personal hell. Those moments where there’s no clear objective that I can keep engaged to often result in negative thoughts and dwelling on the past. It’s a horrible back-slide in my recovery. So every day I try to keep my mind running, never giving it time to think about the past, my marriage, the divorce. Eventually though there’s nothing but silence and in those moments, little by little I try to meditate and come to terms w/the pain and the guilt. I work at it every day to break out of the loop and it slowly gets easier, but it never quite goes away. Maybe some day when my head is full of other things or more positive elements I can push the negative aside. For now though, it is a daily task.
Divorce is about hard choices. The choice of what to say, what to fight for or against. One of the most awkward and painful is how it affects your circle of friends and family.
I made the choice to let go of a sizable number of friends, not because I disliked them but because I realized proximity to many of them would be a painful trigger for me given my divorce. A core of friends that I can still speak to is there and I lean on them heavily, probably more so than I should at times. I know some folks will view this as childish but to me those whom I call close friends are for the most part, still my friends. Acquaintances however, casual friends I accepted to let go of the lions share.
Divorce and especially depression is about survival. Sometimes that means letting go or getting your distance from folks that are too much of a trigger point to you. Don’t cut off everyone, keep those folks who you feel enough comfort with close at hand. It’s been difficult for me to let some friendships fade away, while saying blunt goodbyes to others. If you’re going through the same type of choices just remember there are subtle differences between having to let go of friends for your safety and giving in to depressive feelings of disconnect. It isn’t easy to maintain your objectivity but you have to make the effort.
I won’t sugar coat the fact that for me work and home are sort of the same thing. I mostly work from home and as such am often connected into my clients’ networks several at a time. That lack of separation does create some problems.
Through the course of my therapy one of the things I had the hardest time reconciling was that after a while I felt like I couldn’t distinguish between the weekdays and weekends. My ex-wife’s schedule usually dictated what we did on the weekends and now post-divorce I find myself just focusing on chores. There’s not much in the way of ‘activity’ for me. Nothing that I look forward to or want to plan really. Now and then I’ve tried to hit up the gun range, gone for walks or photo projects but it is not something that comes naturally to me. Instead, much like work, the only thing I have are goal/task oriented. Cleaning up, sorting, throwing things out.
For most folks I think the weekend is full of promise and opportunity. In my case the weekend is just a time for me to figure out the things I have to do, rarely what I want to do. Can’t exactly plan for ‘wants’ when you feel like you want nothing. If you’re in the same sort of anhedonia induced ‘lull’ in feeling about the weekends, you may feel like you’re just running through the motions. I continue to do it because over time I hope that I can bring back my sense of joy and actual longing to do something. It isn’t an easy practice but it’s something that you have to put effort in.
My marriage formally ended in April of 2016. It was somewhat painful timing as that relationship ended three of our mutual friends were lining up their weddings.
As one thing ends, others begin but for me, I made the harsh decision that I could not be a part of my friends weddings. I couldn’t in good conscience go to someone’s wedding and have so little ability to share and contribute to their happiness that I would put a dark cloud over their best day. I remember what it was like on my wedding day all too well. It’s confusing and frustrating to feel like someone else’s happiness is a trigger to your depression.
There’s folks that will put me on blast as selfish for thinking this way but I often think of the flip side. We all see the tropes and hear the horror stories. Folks who go to a wedding when they don’t really want to be there, folks who get drunk to drown away their sadness during a wedding. I didn’t want to be that person, that cliché of the bitter divorcee who spouts snide comments at a wedding. My friends deserve better than that.
Social expectation and masks are something I’ve struggled with since my teens. I’m not sociable, I’m better in small tight groups. A wedding is perhaps the largest social gathering folks hope to have and a time to be sharing in the start of a new life together. I’m not about to put on a mask anymore because social norms say I’m supposed to. “Do it for them” I’ve heard, and while well meaning it misses the point. To me putting on a false front for someone on a day when genuine happiness should be the only thing there is a disservice in my eyes. So while I wish them all the best, I’ll remain where I am, working, trying to change until the day I can go to a friends wedding and smile again, with a real smile.
Have a quick view of this YouTube spoken word piece by Gary Turk.
This actually came up during a session with my therapist but I think the message is a sobering one. If you are sensitive to pieces about depression please take appropriate measures before viewing this clip.
I commented yesterday about social media being a double edged sword but I feel like this piece speaks well to the changes that ‘social’ media brought about to people actually being social. I am more guilty of this than I’d want to admit, it affected my family, my spouse and a good chunk of my friends. When I disconnected from the social media word I realize I’d be isolating myself but at the same time I made interaction more real when I did engage. As much as technology is a part of my life, do try to let go of it now and then. Food for thought.
A bit of self reflection and stupidity. Is it still a blog if no one reads it? This is the question that’s being going back and forth in my mind the last few days. At its core this blog is more of a form of therapy for me. Something to do to keep my mind off negative thinking. While I do hope it gets some traffic or at the very least it helps someone out there, it isn’t about site hits or popularity or comments.
Given that though is it still really a blog? Is it just a rambling online journal? So a jlog? That doesn’t sound very good… Regardless of ‘activity’ I’ll continue to write/post/photograph as needed for this because it’s something I feel I need to do for my own sake. If it helps a few others along the way great. Self log… slog? No that’s worse…
I make my living in IT, which for the most part has been a positive but I think the industry as it’s become more mainstreamed in some ways has brought about a lot of the negative parts of itself into the lives of basically everybody. The irony here is that the sheer level of connectedness we have w/the Internet and real time communication has in some ways fed into the fears and triggers for people who suffer from depression.
Social Media’s Flip Side — There was a time I thought FB and other forms of social media were interesting and as the years drew on, as people popularized the social media platforms; whatever they were; I started to feel like the whole concept was becoming mired in an “ooh look at me” popularity contest like back in high school. The most painful personal experience for me was that I realized that FB became more important than face to face time. Maybe it was a symptom of the other problems in my marriage, or just another facet but I realized at times my now ex-wife would rather catch up on her FB feed than really talk to me. My depression and attitude were certainly a factor, I doubt I was pleasant to engage. I was never big on wanting to be popular, I shy away from the lime light, but I do enjoy being heard for opinions and discussions. Key word, discussions. These days I’ve killed off most of my mainstream social media and instead work through smaller networks or environments where managing who I communicate with is much more an elective choice.
Cyber-bullying and the Anonymous Culture — This to me might be the biggest pain point about social media and the connected communities out there. It used to be that you had to endure the possibility of being harassed at school for being different, for being an academic, how you looked, how wealthy you were. Now with the digital age though the torment doesn’t stop just because you’re outside certain walls. I can’t imagine being a parent, wanting to protecting your kid from negativity only to realize the world out there isn’t built that way. I won’t say that you need to isolate your kids in a protective bubble, since everyone’s kid is a precious snowflake but somehow parents and kids need to take responsibility for the negative things they say and do. The anonymous nature of the net has bothered me in that the minute responsibility and blame are thought to not exist, we see the absolute worst in people. But Vraxx you say, your blog is anonymous. Well sorta, I won’t divulge my full name though it’s easy enough to lookup. My first name is Addison, I’m male, 38 and a recent divorcee. That’s about all the world needs to know about me. Other than that I am just one of many voices out there. I hope that as laws and the systems we use to communicate improve that we find ways to allow for the freedom to communicate but at the same time the ability to hold each other responsible for the things we say/do. It might sound like I’m shitting on the first amendment but it’s a global culture now and folks have to realize that there are boundaries that we need to start drawing somewhere.
Tackling Depression in IT
I usually don’t cross-share other blogs but I felt like this was a very well written piece regarding the efforts of Yana Petrova about the IT world and the prevalence of depression. I’m going to try the book recommendation she made as I can see a lot of the things discussed have at varying points affected me in my job and the obvious carry over with my personal life.
Before my divorce my spouse and I had a precocious female black and tan shiba inu. If you’re familiar at all with the whole doge meme you’ll have seen the red colored shibas all over the net.
Mahina, our shiba, kept me company as I worked from home most days. She was pretty aloof but she’d check on me from time to time and that company was a big help when my stress from work would hit peak levels. Mahina stayed with my ex-wife. She was after all her dog and I couldn’t afford to keep a pet in my current living situation. Having had a pet and then going back to pet-less I can genuinely see how much of a benefit a therapy animal can be for someone. It’s something my therapist and I have also talked about but laws in our state are a little tricky. If you have the ability to care for a pet and are struggling with depression and anxiety I think it’s something you should consider. Keep in mind laws regarding how to get a dog licensed as a therapy dog vary by where you live. As far as the US is concerned there’s a very distinct line drawn between therapy/companion dogs and service dogs (such as seeing eye dogs) who are allowed greater access.
Honestly this attached youtube clip is just to show what a black and tan shiba looks like.
One of the things that I began using as a coping tool which surprised even me, was art therapy. I’ll be the first to tell you that before really coming to grips with my depression I had written off ‘adult coloring books’ as a weird trending idea drummed up by someone who thought they could market something to the multitudes of people suffering from depression.
I can report however that art therapy does have a place in helping with depression, stress and anxiety. I am generally not a huge fan of iOS apps outside of those used for media consumption. However, I took a chance on an app called Pigment after I saw the UI design. (Pigment — http://apple.co/2brP9MI) Handy for when I’m working or just having trouble sleeping, the application provides an easy to use interface, the option to backup your creations and reset them. Recently (much to my surprise) they even added a feature to import photos you’ve taken and try to covert them into usable painting canvases. I say ‘try’ because the system basically does a black and white conversion allowing you to color in the areas that are now white.
If you’re an iPad Pro user the Apple Pencil with it’s improved range of pressure and angle works especially well. There’s no catch-all tool that fixes depression, but if you have the funds I do suggest at least trying out Pigment. It’s a nice alternative if you don’t want to maintain old fashioned color pencils and printed coloring books.