Breakfast for Two — Reconnecting with Old Friends

A rare moment of social interaction for me today as I met up with one of my oldest friends from my high school years. A simple breakfast for two at a local restaurant (Café Lani).

Coffee, carbs and conversation. Not bad for a Saturday morning, certainly not bad for someone in my shoes. I normally don’t eat out these days. Too many crowds, too much feeling like I’m about to crawl out of my own skin but it was good to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in person in like eight years. We spoke of the ups and downs of life, family, politics. Nothing earth shattering but comfortable.

It is rare that you have friends that you can pick up after years and still carry on a conversation and I suppose that goes to how I’ve often chosen to make friends. Caliber and closeness of friends over quantity has always been my thing. I don’t keep a very big circle but the friends I do keep, I hope feel comfortable being themselves around me, good or bad.

I don’t know what 2017 will hold for me. 2016 felt like a year of loss, a year where I made mistakes, lost my way, lost parts of myself and my past. Maybe the upcoming year will be a chance to rebuild and climb back to something resembling ‘normal’. Truth be told I don’t even know what normal is these days.

Depression — Perspective on Needs and Wants

The holidays are a time where most folks are concerned about wants, dealing with my depression and anxiety I realized I stopped really having wants and it’s more about the things I need.

I realize that I need to take care of myself. That I need to seek help when needed. That I need to let go of a lot of things in order to move forward. Wanting often feels foolish and pointless. Anhedonia twists that sense of want. When nothing brings joy there is nothing to look forward to.

Some people want gifts, or things for Christmas. Me, I just want the day to go away and to be left to my own little set of challenges. I often feel that those of us fighting mental health issues just want to feel normal. Unfortunately that doesn’t simply ‘happen’ it’s a process, a long one at that. If you know someone who is struggling with depression or anxiety. Reach out, not because it’s Christmas, just because you can. You don’t need to try to cheer them up, just engage them. Listen to their pains, share your day. You’d be surprised at the help that can provide.

When Christmas Just Becomes Dec 25th

This will mark my first Christmas since my divorce was final and my second since my marriage basically ended. The depression is pretty rough, even if it wasn’t for the holidays but for me it’s never been particularly a fun time.

My parents separated right around the holidays and perhaps owing to my mom being Vietnamese we were never really big on celebrations. It was mostly just about having a simple meal with the family.

These days I realize I don’t care so much about things and gifts, it’s always been about spending time out of a hectic schedule. This year though to be honest, I feel like Christmas is just Dec 25th, another number and box on a calendar.

I hope to be able to get through the three days of the Christmas weekend and just survive. It sounds over dramatic, I know, but for me I think it will be a while before I’m ok with dealing with people during this season. I hope that folks who may come cross this blog understand that between folks who suffer from persistent depressive disorder, major depressive disorder or even just season affective disorder that the most joyous time of the year can for many be the most painful time of the year. To those in the same situation as I am, find that little thing you can focus on to get you through, find someone to confide in during the rough spots. Best wishes to all as the year comes to a close.

Book Recommendation — Robert Duff: Hardcore Self Help: F**k Depression
Hardcore Self Help: F**k Depression

I generally don’t try to pitch specific products or anything but I did find this a very good read. Robert Duff’s writing style is very frank and he tries to simplify elements of CBT and psychology to something relatable by most folks.

I appreciate the levity and honesty in his style. He doesn’t imply that simply reading his book is a cure to depression but that it’s a guide to show a possible direction to take your treatment options. Some of the approaches he has are simple yet accessible and often re-enforced by his reminder that the process of learning to cope with depression is a gradual one.

Though sometimes the bluntness of his wording may be off putting to some, for the occasional stubborn therapy patient (of which I’d say I qualify) it can be a pleasant read.

Truth and Holidays

These aren’t exactly things that go well together. Social expectation is that the holidays are a time to be happy. My family has never been big on the holidays, even as early as my teens it sort of ceased to be the usual thought of X-Mas and was mostly just about our family sharing a meal.

I’ve stopped trying to seem happy for happiness’ sake this season. No more faces, no more doing things for people so that I appear to be in the holiday mood. It’s me raw and unfiltered. I don’t believe everyone appreciates that, but then again I’m not so much into caring about what folks think about my mood and depression.  They can either accept it or chose to move on.

The news is pretty brutal these days and while I understand most folks just want something positive to believe in, or a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie for me I’ve chosen to focus on being who I am, good or bad.

Pets and Their Role In Mental Health

I happened upon this post and was amused to see that it’s taken this long to assess the role that pets play in mental health. During my marriage, my spouse and I had a black and tan female shiba inu. We adopted her when she was just past a year old and I’ll admit she won us both over immediately.

Pets pass no judgement and for those of us suffering from mental illness it’s a huge thing to be unburdened by. I can understand how the study found pets at the central support circle for people. Though I do not have a pet now, it’s something I’ve considered. Having to take care of another living thing is a focus and helps to keep you engaged. If you’re having difficulty in finding a stable support circle and have the capacity for a pet, talk to your health care provider, see if you can get an emotional support animal. It might be that extra little bit you need to help with the difficult times.

The Catch-22 of Engaging Conversation and Depression

One of the elements of depression and anxiety that I’ve found to be a true catch-22 lies in the nature of conversation and engaging others. You don’t conquer depression in a vacuum, you need interpersonal relationships, that’s a given.  The problems arise when trying to engage others becomes a weird lop sided affair.

One of the most typical things for me at least has often been ‘looped’ or single word replies. We’ve all been there, and social media, email/instant messenger apps make it happen. You say something, hoping to engage in conversation, you get back “that’s cool” or “ok”. There may be a myriad of reasons for it, folks are busy, things have different priorities. On the receiving end though it often feels like a brush off or a deflection. It isn’t their fault of course, therein lies the catch-22.

From my side I need to remind myself that everyone has their lives they are leading and timing doesn’t always mesh. I also have to remember how to phrase things so that they understand I’m reaching out. When you’re fighting depression it can be hard to not sound like you’re being negative but that’s another factor. Most folks don’t want to discuss negative things, it takes a toll.

It’s a daily struggle but I’m working little by little to restructure how I engage folks and not letting the ‘busyness’ of life make me dwell on the negativity I feel.

Blank Slates

One of the difficult parts about learning to live with my depression has been the sense that I have to rebuild. Following my divorce one of the most painful statements directed at me was “how could I not know myself <sic> at my age”

Identity isn’t something that’s static, it’s fluid. Our experiences twist, shape and mold who we are in the present. I can’t say my life has been happy, I can’t say it’s been bad either but in some areas it has been painful. Divorce is something I would never wish upon my enemies. It makes you question who you are at every turn, every choice you’ve made, every discussion you’ve had.

On a daily basis I find myself trying to find parts of myself that are still intact and inevitably finding parts that aren’t. I’ve had to make decisions about what parts of my past to break away from and what parts to hold onto tightly. It isn’t easy purging your life, your memories but sometimes you have to get rid of the things that were once you to be able to become a you that survives. Don’t be afraid to wipe the slate clean here and there.

Divorce and the Death of Art — By the Numbers

A lot changed for me from 2015 to 2016. My marriage was over, my ex-wife and I filed for divorce and any drive I had to pick up my camera died off. In part because I met my ex through art and because in some ways I lost her to it too.

Most of my footage was to help others, rarely for myself in the last few years of my marriage. I went from capturing anywhere from 500GBs of data through 2015 to less than 8GB for all of 2016.

I don’t photograph people anymore, it’s a little hard to get people to smile when you don’t. This isn’t the first time I’ve sunken this far and I doubt it will be the last time. Though my photography has been a source of decompression and therapy, it is done with a laser focus and purpose. Gone are the days of photographing for happiness’ sake. There are small projects in my head, darker ones that I want to express but haven’t found the full extent of what I want to say. In some ways the death of one art can be the birth of another. The journey to get there however isn’t always a pleasant one.

Holiday Cheer and Fear

One of the difficult things about trying to get used to my anxiety and depression is dealing with the holidays. More specifically getting used to a time where everyone expects you to smile, to be jolly. Spent years doing so for my ex-wife, my family. I’m not trying to do so anymore.

These days I will be myself. Oh I’ll be polite and appropriate but I’m tired of trying to fake a smile, trying to meet the expectations of the world. Nobody likes a Grinch but sometimes you have to be honest to yourself rather than trying to please others because ’tis the season’.

My family has never really been big on celebrating the holidays. Maybe it’s because my mother is Vietnamese and for her, the holidays were more about church and a simple family meal than gift giving. For me most of Christmas’ have always been tempered by some kind of tragedy or sadness. With the divorce I have even more reasons to dislike the season. For me I just want to live through Christmas and be allowed to welcome the New Year with my truest face. Whether or not the holidays appeal to you, I do hope that everyone finds what they are looking for and are able to bring in the new year as best as they see fit.