Workaholic Behavior and Depression

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-excess/201612/workaholism-and-psychiatric-disorders

I came across the above article and it was interesting read, especially given my own perspective that I have been at many varying points a workaholic. Several of the patterns discussed were interesting to me as I’ve often wondered what correlations may existing between people who are driven to push at work or have a tendency to bulldog problems.

The uptick in symptoms in various areas including ADHD, OCD, anxiety and depression were eye opening. I typically split my time working remotely and working onsite with clients and one of the main aspects for me has been an ability to focus without being distracted. My background was initially as a programmer and later as a systems admin/analyst. As a result I’m used to having my head down to solve a problem. It’s possible the same characteristics that make me good at deep dive analysis unfortunately make me susceptible to other conditions such as anxiety and depression.

The mind works in so many different ways that I’d hardly call these findings conclusive but the pattern and potential implications may lead to better ways to head-off dangerous mental illness before it becomes too severe. I know my chosen profession is full of stress, turn over and requires a very distinct mindset to survive. Hopefully as HR and psychological processes improve resources will be available to help folks who may be on the bubble as I was in getting help.

Divorce and the Public Eye — Celebrity Divorce

Brad and Angelina, Pratt and Faris, celebrity marriages and divorces seem to happen so often I think people forget that there’s still human emotions involved.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/16/entertainment/anna-faris-podcast/index.html

I always get a twinge of sadness when I hear about a celebrity couple that is getting divorced. The process sucks and I’ve never understood the public’s fascination with wanting to know “why”. When my marriage ended I pulled away from everything and I do mean everything with even a remote connection to my ex-wife. Having anyone ask me “why didn’t it work” would likely have sent me reeling. I can’t begin to fathom the constant onslaught that celebrities have to endure from the press, paparazzi and social media these days. We look for the salacious, the scandal, the tragic in the divorce process. Why, I have no idea. My usual worry when I hear about a celebrity going through divorce is are their kids ok, are they getting the help they need and is it a messy divorce. How do they frame their ex-spouse.

While I appreciate Anna Faris’ messages I think people need to remember that marriages fail for a myriad of reasons and that everyone’s circumstances are different. The only constant I’ve ever seen is that somewhere, somehow the communication broke down or the differences outweighed the common bonds and it was time to end the marriage. If you or someone you know is going through a divorce I hope that you are able to be there for them. You don’t need to bash the other spouse, you don’t even need to say much of anything. Keep them focused on the things that need to be done and the priorities legal, familial and emotional.

Depression — Weathering the Storm

I live in a hurricane zone and that got me thinking about the parallels between depressive episodes and storms. In the case of hurricanes you can see the storm forming sometimes thousands of miles away. It’s a gradual thing that inches closer to you. You can’t stop the hurricane from happening, you can’t get out of the way, you can only brace, prepare and weather the storm.

The one major thing I’ve gradually gained through therapy has been an awareness of my mental and emotional state so that I can feel the onset of an episode. In past blogs I’ve talked about sort of side-stepping, though really it’s more about fortifying and minimize how long the episode keeps you pinned under.

The tools vary by person but my own typical approach has been to blend these main behaviors and elements.

  • Optimize my diet
    • When an episode is brewing I try to cut way down on sugars and carbs and focus on vegetables and light, easy to process proteins
    • Yogurt, overnight oats and ready to go meals so that I don’t start skipping meals and binge eating later
  • Try to keep even a low-level exercise routine
    • I’m terrible at this to be honest but I try to keep a little under-desk peddle unit so I have some exercise
  • Switch off from the news and negative media
    • Unplugging has often been one of the hardest things to do given my job in IT but less information is sometimes better.
  • Brace my friends and support structure
    • This one is weird and hard. I often struggle with telling friends that I feel an episode coming on so my mood, mannerisms and conversation may become more difficult. Most people expect it when something tragic happens, but for clinical depression it doesn’t have to be one specific major event that triggers your episode, getting that across isn’t always easy.
  • Mind my medications and supplements
    • This will vary greatly by person, especially if you’re on prescriptions medications for depression or anxiety but falling out of sync with meds or supplements to keep your health up is always rough so better to try to remain consistent.

I wish there were an easy answer out there.  I wish that living with depression wasn’t simply about surviving and managing it like some terminal condition. The fact there’s no cookie cutter solution to depression is a constant reminder to me that people are unique and we each have to chart a course through the problems our life has. I don’t have answers for everyone I just know what’s been working for me and hope that in writing it down may help someone else who may have overlooked something or could add to their box of coping tools.

 

 

A Flip Side to “Fake it till you make it” — Berkeley Study

Feeling bad about feeling bad can make you feel worse

I happened upon this and thought it was pretty timely. One of the difficult aspects of depression is trying to maintain a positive mental attitude and a lot of times there a view of sort of ‘faking it’ until you get better.

I’ve often wondered what kinds of negative implications this may have and one of my views has been that as I started to understand my depression more I stopped trying to put on a smile and accepted my darker emotions and tried to focus on processing through them rather than burying them away. I stopped telling folks “I’m good” when I knew I was having a hard go of things.

The idea really isn’t new, the concept that bottling up your emotions usually only leads to more explosive outbursts later. My father had a temper, and growing up I always worked to keep mine under wraps. Often wonder if that was a disservice to myself. We all manifest emotional stress differently and I think in my case it was a downward spiral into depression which caused me to hurt those close to me.

The important take away I had from the article was the idea that I need to make sure I am finding safe, constructive outlets for the stress and negative emotions I feel. Some of my choices, admittedly, are a bit less safe than others but for myself I’ve always found a degree of danger and adrenaline has seemed to be the only way around my depressive episodes. Be it racing cars, hunting or just shooting at a gun range. Whatever your particular outlet try to make sure it’s a something positive and work your way through the down times. You don’t have to necessarily smile, but you do have to move forward.

 

Of Mornings and Social Norms

For me the gradual build up of anxiety and depression was so subtle I hardly noticed it. I often chocked it up to getting older and being a bit of a curmudgeon. These days I realize that one of the things I always felt was odd were social norms and a great deal of expectation.  There’s an almost Pavlovian response that we expect when we say things like “Hope your day goes well” or “How’s things?” It’s a conditioned response to say just positives so when someone actually says how they feel it can be a case of mental discord.

These days I don’t really smile. I’m used to it, going about my day with minimal contact and little to no expectation. When I do interact it’s a weird blend of automatic responses and trying to be honest. I don’t tell people I’m fine anymore. That word has been out of my emotional vocabulary for a while. When you stop caring about the mask and just say what’s actually going on it’s off putting to most. Those who can still tolerate me in this state, with the overhang of depression are the friends I still try to keep close.

I’ve had to make a lot of difficult choices about my social circle post-divorce, some of them likely interpreted as me abandoning former friends. In my eyes however it’s been as sink/swim choice. Keeping friends who’s presence reminded me of my ex was too much of a trigger. Trying to feign happiness or normality among them was draining and I felt like I was just constantly lying.  I don’t lie anymore as I have no need and I don’t expect anything of the circles I have retained (even if their closeness is no longer what it once was). The paradoxical part of depression is that as much as you long for contact, it also makes you push away people. For me I know it’s been a self-awareness of that push/pull. I can see myself doing so, I understand it, there’s a rationale behind it but sometimes it does feel surreal. I’ve built up a tolerance for the pain of self-imposed isolation, of the emotional toll depression takes on a daily basis. I find ways to reach out to the resources I need to (therapist, friends, coworkers) as needed but sometimes it feels like it’s all I can do to maintain balance and prevent myself from sinking into a major depressive episode.

I’ll never sugar coat the difficulties of living with depression. It’s a daily juggling act between meeting social expectations while doing what you can to not send yourself over the edge. Every little bit helps in the fight and knowing when to pull the ripcord and reach out to friends is critical. If you find yourself having a rough time don’t be afraid to let folks know you’re in a bad place. Not everyone will understand that if you suffer from clinical depression that place isn’t something you just “get out of in a day or so” but the ones that do will be an anchor point.