The Double Edged Sword of Routine — Marking the 101th Post

There’s a certain double edged sword in the formation of habits. With depression/anxiety you need a certain degree of habits to keep you going. At the same time however some habits become too much of a safety zone. I’m certainly not immune to them but here’s what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for me.

Grooming Habits — In an effort to be more eco-friendly I switched away from my classic Gillette Mach 5’s and went old school. I opted to use the classic safety razor process. During the most severe point of major depression amid my divorce I found the process of cleaning my razor equipment, having to manually whip up my shaving soap and the actual attention needed during a shave, helped me focus on keeping up my appearances. It’s a small thing but it did help me cope.

Eating Habits — This one isn’t always a good thing. I’ve tried to focus on healthier eating (less fried foods, home made natural yogurt, sous vide cooking) but while the intent was well meaning it had an unforeseen side effect. I started to go out less and simply would always eat something I made. This cut down on my desire to go out considerably. In some sense it was the most double edged coping tool. While I’ve ceased binge eating and eating things that are too high in sugars or fat I have had to find a way to balance that with my lack of interaction/socialization.

After Work Habits —  Probably the weakest of my habits. I haven’t gotten into exercise as I should. Knee injuries, a bad back sort of make fitness the last thing I want to do. I am trying to find ways to get myself motivated more to get out and about but it may be the most difficult coping tool (despite it really being one of the more effective ones).

The biggest thing with any habit, you have to decide, focus and make it something you can turn into a routine without becoming a rut. Know when to break from them and mix it up. I’m still working weekly to find activities that are positive that I can sink my teeth into but it can be a difficult endeavor so don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t come easily or all at once.

My Least Favorite Time — Valentine’s

It’s hard enough dealing with Valentine’s Day when you’re single, it’s doubly more difficult when you are a divorcee and suffering from depression.

The first Valentine’s after my separation I spent it alone and understanding that my soon to be ex-wife was off with her boyfriend. I tried my hardest to treat the day just like any other, pushing aside thoughts of the past every time they crept up. It’s a bit ironic I suppose, my depression most readily manifests as anhedonia, an inability to feel happiness. On Valentine’s Day I wish I felt nothing instead of sadness.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to others even if it’s just to say “check in on me a bit”. Your married friends, your attached friends will have their things to do, but don’t dismiss the simple solace that a single email or text can provide.

When Is A Vacation Not A Vacation?

Something I’ve realized, when you have dysthymia or any form of depression, the idea of a vacation feels odd. It might seen strange to think that a vacation wouldn’t be enjoyable but in my case it’s nothing more than day that I don’t deal with ‘work work’. The rub is you never get to take a vacation from your depression.

For me I was required to take this time off from work, but most of the time I’ve spent thus far has been strictly focused on cleaning out my bedroom in preparation for new furniture to replace my aging and moisture warped old furniture.

I hope that once the bulk of my cleanup is done I will find the motivation to venture out, maybe get some coffee or something similar. It must seem odd to folks to think that ‘free time’ isn’t viewed as something amazing and cherished. I am often reminded of the phrase “Same shit, different day”. Particularly because I live in Hawaii, a place that most folks think of as a getaway location.

The value of a vacation takes on less meaning when the thing which drains you most, that consumes your energy isn’t something that freedom from work grants you. Still though, time in itself is an opportunity, it’s just difficult to achieve it sometimes.

Food Tips for Those Struggling with Depression — Overnight Oats

I’ll be totally candid, while I can cook and it’s a source of fun for me, the reality is I am TERRIBLE at breakfast. Not that I can’t make things for breakfast, rather I am very bad about consistently getting up and finding the motivation to actually make something.

If you’re like me, depression often zaps my motivation from the moment I wake up. While I’ve taken to things like pour-over coffee as a routine to help jump start me, I have neglected the whole ‘start the day with a good breakfast’. To help address that I’ve taken to trying out ‘overnight oats’. The idea sounds weird I admit.

At its core overnight oats are a mix of old fashioned steel cut oats, chia seeds, flax and other fruits that you place in a jar, add milk and allow to sit overnight. In the morning you no longer have to drag yourself through the kitchen trying to make a hot meal, you unscrew that lid and nom away.

I’ve tried a few variations of the above linked recipes and they aren’t bad. Might not be something you want to do EVERY night (cause let’s be honest oatmeal every morning gets tiring) but it’s a nice alternative. I’m hoping that between this and homemade yogurt I’ll be able to at least keep up the gut-health and conversely that helps stave off the pounds and improves mood regulation.

If you’ve had difficulties in caring for yourself in the morning I encourage you to look into this as an alternative to other fast food or grab and go breakfast options.

CNN Article – Costuming as Therapy

This was an interesting article for me to read but at the same time a bit of a trigger. My ex-wife loved cosplay and costuming and I’m sure it helped contribute to her emotions and eventual shift from an introvert to more of an extrovert.

A sense of escape and finding something to hold onto when overcoming difficulty can be a nice form a therapy beyond the conventional CBT or pharmacological. I doubt I’d ever go this route, costuming for me never held a strong emotional response, and I’m sure somewhere in the back of my head I’d have an aversion given my history and ex-wife. It’s something to consider however if you are looking for less traditional approaches.

Guilty Pleasures — Sherlock (BBC) and Relatable Themes

I’ll be honest from as far back as my early high school days I was a fan of two authors. Sir Author Conan Doyle and Isaac Asimov. From one I learned cold logic and astute observation, from the other I learned to think about the future and technology and its role with society. Though Asimov’s themes are rarely duplicated verbatim, I am happy to say that Sherlock has seen so many iterations that the mind boggles. The BBC’s latest staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman has been a bit of a guilty pleasure. Particularly season (sorry I’m an American, calling it series doesn’t work) 4.

The thing is there’s layers to both Doyle’s original works and the modern interpretation that strike a chord, not because of my youth, but because of my struggle with depression. Sherlock as a character has always been about the logic, but meshed there as well are themes of loneliness, addiction, friendship and mortality.  All of these elements are all too front and center for someone with depression.

My father was himself addicted to cigarettes and other less than healthy behaviors. I’ve mostly avoided those paths but it’s a line that I can see readily.  The draw is there and Doyle (smartly I think) gave his hero, very blunt and obvious character flaws.

Not everyone will enjoy Sherlock but first two episodes of season 4 hit some very powerful emotional chords, some of which I found pulling at me on a personal level.

Though the show can at times be very dark it is an interesting watch.

Cleaning out the Old — Divorce/Moving

One of the hardest things I experienced through the process of divorce was having to pack up all my memories. We moved into my ex-wife’s home so the transition was easier for her. Having to reverse that process in my case was a difficult memory trigger.

As I find myself again moving (of a short) I realize that I have to get rid of a lot of things. It hasn’t been the most pleasant thing having to retread through my memories. Seven years of being a couple permeated through a lot of my life. Among the most stressful things in life are moving, an audit and divorce. Hopefully I never have to make it three for three.

There is a silver lining I suppose. As you get rid of things that you no longer need or use there is a catharsis in it. The bitterness of having to decide to memories to keep isn’t easy, progress rarely is. If you find yourself having a hard time with it, you can always have a friend along to help wade through the things and provide you a sense of perspective. Take it a bit at a time. It isn’t easy but it helps.

Projects and New Years Goals 2017

This past year isn’t one that I’d want to really remember. My divorce was finalized, I had to face the reality of my battle withe depression. Friends were let go, some chose to leave. Over time I know I have to try to rebuild. Investing in the ‘adult’ things that are needed has always been a tricky thing to me.

As 2016 closed I found myself buying some furniture to really redo the bedroom I currently have. It was a bit weird, the last time I really had to factor in furniture I was moving in with my new wife.

To keep myself busy over the New Years weekend I decided to try my hand at a memphis dry rub rib. As I live in a condo however there was an obvious wrinkle… no smoker.

The answer instead was to cook the ribs sous vide.

Split-rack of ribs in sous vide bathTwelve hours in the water bath helped to keep the meat soft and moist and a 40 minute finish in the oven lead to the end product.

Bark formed on rib

In the end the particular recipe that was used was a bit overly dry and admittedly I think the ribs would have retained more moisture with a good quality brine before seasoning and sealing the bag.

Cut and plated

Still though, giving an option to cooking ribs indoors w/o the need for a smoker was handy. The project kept me from dwelling on the past year and focused on a task with a viable pay off (om nom nom).

Cooking has been one of the few stress relief options I’ve had and trying to cook somewhat healthier has provided a challenge. I hope that I am able to continue my culinary therapy along with my other courses of action to help find a balance between moving forward and addressing my depression.