June hasn’t been going particularly smoothly for me. Had my share of set backs, fighting depressive episodes more and more. Number of contributing factors that I am at least aware of, divorce related legal/financial matters, trying to save up for my own place, birthday around the corner. The news and general state of the world sort of ‘doom and gloom’ constantly in the spotlight hasn’t helped ease my fears.
One of the most of difficult things for me has always been when the world seems to hold more questions than I can take on at a time. When my mind is stuck there in maximum rumination mode and loops on things I can’t figure out over and over again. When I can find no good course of action to take to solve the problems at hand in my life. You feel impotent, unable to move forward. So things don’t really change they just creep along and evolve.
I’ve tried to get myself back into a normal exercise routine, even if it’s just short hikes or walks. Weather however hasn’t been helpful rain and summer heat and humidity. Picked up a light weight Camelback pack to help me stay hydrated. I’ve always had an issue with that when I’m out and about.
Hoping to keep my head above water, more consistent diet, a bit of exercise but it’s getting harder and harder to find self-motivation. I can only hope that this summer goes quickly and I can find myself back at a point where I’m better able to balance things.
I’ll admit, while I may not suffer from seasonal affective disorder, with my dysthymia and anxiety I feel like I’m almost the inverse of the norm on SAD. I actually dread summer more than winter or fall.
This summer in particular has been a little rough. Legal and financial matters to tie up relating to the divorce have weighed on me, the weather here is humid and muggy making my usual days just that much more uncomfortable. I’ve tried to focus on short-goal projects as of late. A new VMware lab to tinker with, study material, the occasional game now and then.
When most folks are enjoying the outdoors and celebrating, I recoil and look inward. Maybe it’s because my birthday falls in the middle of summer and this year in particular I have no desire to celebrating getting older. Slowly managing to drag myself outside more as needed, but rarely for ‘pleasure’. I take no joy in going out to see what’s out there. As a close friend described it, life is grey. Sometimes I feel like summer turns me into more of a vampire as I’d rather venture out at night or in the early hours of the morning both to avoid the summer crowds and to avoid the heat. I can barely look back upon my memories and imagine that I ever looked forward to the summers off.
Father’s day is coming up later in the month and given the events of the last two years, divorce, depression it’s made me a bit introspective. My own relationship with my father is non-existent and I realize a sizable chunk of that stems from my own childhood experiences with divorce.
Seeing my parents drift apart and eventually divorce was a painful experience in my pre-teens. Sometimes I wondered how much of it was my fault, I wondered how my father felt about the whole process. Having gone through it myself, I have an idea for the challenges he must have had. Mercifully my ex-wife and I didn’t have children. I doubt I’d be writing today if kids were a factor in my divorce. Looking back I realize just how often I questioned my own fitness at the prospect of becoming a parent. I honestly don’t know if that will ever really be the case for me or if maybe I’ll just serve as a cool uncle for the remainder of my days.
Never been one for holidays but this time around Father’s day has weird sting for me. Maybe I’m just over thinking something that may never be or dwelling on things I can’t change. The weight of it still sits with me but I try to focus on the things I can change for now and not the ones that have passed.
One of the most embarrassing things about depression, for me at least, has been that during the worst of an episode your personal health takes a nose dive. All of the personal hygiene tasks become heavy and loathsome. (Full disclosure the Feature photo above is just a stock photo)
I won’t attempt to say I understand how difficult it is for women living with depression in that regard but I can say from the male perspective one of the things that usually made me cringe was shaving in the morning. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not equating clean shaven or bearded with a degree of depression. I look terrible with facial hair so I try to look clean shaven as a matter of taste but that process becomes more and more of a drag the deeper my depression. On good days, I can run through a full routine of a wet shave with an old school safety razor. It takes a bit longer but it helps to get me moving in the morning and the quality of the shave makes the exercise fulfilling in its own way. Bad days on the other hand being close to a razor becomes an unsettling effort. So now and then I try to use an electric razor. Recently tried the Philips Norelco OneBlade and if you find it difficult to start your morning routine you may want to give it a once over.
Rechargeable, under $40 and with blades that last several months they are a nice alternative to disposable razors or more expensive 3-head shavers. While not nearly as close a shave as my safety razor, I think it’s a helpful grooming aid. It’s possible to use the OneBlade as a dry shaver or with your choice of shaving cream for a wet shave.
Irritation wasn’t an issue and I don’t have the best skin to begin with. The unit also includes guides for beard use. Taking care of yourself often seems like the biggest waste of time when depression hits hardest so every little tool which helps lessen the burden of taking care of yourself is useful. The cost is also more reasonable than other options.
Depression itself is a serious topic but I also realized that my blog is very focused on the clinical side of things so I thought periodically it would be a good idea for me to break from that and just talk about less serious topics.
Food plays a pretty big part of my day and food related routines became one of my coping tools. To that end though I do try to find snacks and things that can be portioned and controlled so that I don’t go crazy. One such snack I’ve enjoyed are Daelman’s Stroopwafels (see link below)
More specifically I should say the Mini-Stroopwafels which to me are far easier to portion control. If you’ve read my blog you may have seen that part of my routine to stave off depression is to make a nice hand pour brewed coffee. Stroopwafels, especially the caramel variety go great with a good Kona or French roast. They are small enough that 2-3 will give you a nice little sugar boost without being too sweet.
Normal sized stroopwafels are around four inches in diameter. There’s even a whole process of warming them over your hot coffee to soften them. As fun as that may be, I find the full sized stroopwafel a bit much. Being in my late 30’s I don’t want to get too crazy with the sugar or impact my weight adversely. Indulging in a little snack isn’t terrible but it is an exercise in self control. As I only buy a bag or so at time and only if I’ve been eating healthy otherwise it hasn’t become habit forming. Besides online you can find them at Walmarts (usually individual packages) or at coffee shops. Give them a try if you’re looking to add a little fun to your morning or evening routine.
8 Signs You Could Have High Functioning Depression
Depression is a tricky thing to pin down due in no small part to the broad range in diagnosis. Terminology has also shifted over the years (DSM classifications) and even how it’s referred to in casual conversation.
For myself, my diagnosis was classified as dysthymia or more commonly these days persistent depressive disorder. While on the lower side of the spectrum along with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), it’s the persistence that can be most difficult to live with from a day to day basis. Other more intense forms of depression such as postpartum, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder are often the most stigmatized adding even more difficulty for those who want to seek help.
Another phrase I keep hearing thrown about is high functioning depression as opposed to crippling depression. I almost feel like this is something of a misnomer, as it covers such a wide range of the depression spectrum that it seems silly to me. Do not misunderstand, I’m aware that for people who are battling severe depression it can become crippling and literally prevent you from being employed in a conventional work environment, but I feel like the identifier of ‘high functioning’ gives off the wrong message to people. To me it almost marginalizes depression as something that “is there but doesn’t matter” which in part is one of the reasons why it goes undiagnosed and untreated for many of us. I fell into that trap, I figured I could still do my job well enough despite not feeling much of anything (anhedonia) and my isolation and anxiety I just attributed to getting older and being something of a curmudgeon. Friends I’ve talked to often miss the fact that depression isn’t static, it isn’t that you are diagnosed as bi polar and that’s all you ever are, or that having mild SAD or dysthymia means you’re just sort of “feeling the blues”. It’s hard for folks to fathom that triggering events, stressors can tip the scales from mild depression into a full major depressive episode. Once that happens it can be a very high risk time for someone, this is where people ‘snap’ or find themselves spiral so far that suicide becomes a consideration. The best option is to head off the problem before it becomes that severe where possible.
The warning signs are something to be aware of, especially to employers I think, but if you see anything of yourself in these symptoms, I do urge you to get a diagnosis and see about making changes in your life, your prescriptions or just starting the process by talking to someone.
The above article I would say is far from really scientific but I think anyone who has spent time on social media and then stepped away from it will understand the gist of it. I can’t recall tell if my depression and anxiety tainted my view of social media or if my personality as a whole just doesn’t like the idea of it. I’ve never been one to seek attention and the whole structure of sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to me felt like one big rat race for popularity.
The notion that likes don’t have value made a lot of sense to me. When interaction is a “click” is there still meaning in it? It’s one of those things where if it mattered there would be communication, not just a thumbs up/down check box. The need to feel liked drives a lot of folks but I’ve always wondered to what end? When the process of divorce started I terminated my social media accounts. I no longer parade my daily life out, with the exception of this blog. My reasons for The Long Road however aren’t to be liked, it’s just another variation on my therapy. If people have meaningful things to say, I certainly hope they engage me but it isn’t the driving force of my writing. Facebook has some positive uses but I feel like it’s gotten mired in the need to create image and branding. When businesses wanted employees to use their personal Facebook accounts to promote product I realized it was just another tool being used, it wasn’t about being true to yourself or wanting meaningful interaction it was about attention, visibility and optics. That world isn’t for me and deactivating my accounts was one of the best choices I made to keep myself from feeling worse.
If you find that the toxicity of social media is affecting you more and more, think about pairing it down. Don’t rely on FB. It is entirely possible to keep communicating with others in a format that isn’t about a popularity wall. It isn’t easy but personally, I find that when I’m engaged by people who genuinely want to speak to me, it’s a much more fulfilling process. No likes required.
Living in a state that doesn’t really get the same severity of weather change as my mainland counterparts I’ve never really thought of myself as being prone to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but lately my April has been extremely rainy. As I’ve been tracking my mood more I’ve wondered if I may suffer from mild SAD or if it’s just another manifestation of my dysthymic disorder
The idea that the seasonal shift and weather affect mood isn’t new, the idea of winter blahs is pretty old. For me while the weather used to affect me slightly (mostly in terms of lethargy) it wasn’t until my divorce and subsequent depressive episode that I really started to examine the impact the weather had on me. If you notice your mood and depression is heavily influenced by the season changes you may want to give the article above a quick look.
For me the early indicators have been the increase in laziness, a general dislike of going outside and diminished appetite when the weather turns. I’ve tried to counter act those influences by using a warmer light setting on my adjustable LED lamp that I keep near my bedside, reducing red meat and increasing whole grains and fruits. It’s certainly not fool proof but it helps get me out of the ‘I’m dragging’ feeling so that I can at least move about the house and try to get things done. With the cold, decreased sunlight and rain (especially for me) the instinct to curl up in a bed and just let things pass you by is really hard to overcome but small nuanced changes do help. This time last year I doubt I’d be writing as much or even having any interest in seeing what’s going on in the world. The mood outside affected or magnified my already depressive mood. These days I’m more aware of the direction of my mental state and rather than try to dramatically shift it, I’ve found mechanisms to nudge it back into a safer direction.
If you think you might suffer from a form of depressive disorder talk to a physician or a therapist, see about things you can do to help you manage the symptoms.
Before You Forget: A Crash Course About Men’s Depression
One of the difficult things about depression is how it manifests from person to person with a lot of variation, even more so how it does so between genders.
I’m guilty of not being able to see my own depression as it became worse over several years. Personally I tried to deflect and often attributed it to stress, fatigue and sleep issues. The above article was a good review and reminder that there’s a spectrum to depression which isn’t always easy to identify.
From my own experiences it’s also extremely difficult to get someone suffering from depression to spot their own signs. I was very dismissive of it and it cost me greatly. The approach for everyone may be very different from person to person but a lot of times frustrated spouses and friends may come at the issue a bit hard and critical. For me at least that approach made me recoil inward even more and in some ways built my own frustration. If you have a loved one whom you suspect is suffering from a form of depression, let them know you’re worried, let them know you’re concerned and offer to just listen to what’s bothering them. A lot of times it’s just being heard that it’s the first step. Recommend therapy or other activities to help as coping tools, but try to do so constructively and not as a criticism or implication that they are somehow broken. Depression in it’s many variations is difficult to manage and even harder at times to spot but a good support does wonders.
Subject Matter Warning:
This photo blog post contains images that may not be suitable for everyone. Themes are sensitive and I don’t want anyone who may be in a difficult time or suffering from suicidal ideation to be affected by this. This post is purely an interpretation of depression as I’ve experienced it. If you do not feel comfortable with these darker themes please close this tab and move on to one of my other posts.
The face of depression is lying alone at night with a small lamp, waiting and wishing for sleep to come. Trying to push aside the constant flood of memories that hit when your mind is idle.
Sometimes fearing you’ll never rest.
The face of depression is wanting that way out and seeing the things that could make that happen.
But realizing that you should do something more constructive like maintenance for your next day at the range.
Sometimes it’s seeing how a sliver of metal could make you focus on a different pain.
But remembering that it might just be better to give yourself a nice shave and brave the outside.
The face of depression isn’t a face. It’s the nondescript things that we suffer every day. The small tasks that seem insurmountable, the triggers and risks we navigate like a minefield that most take for granted.
The face of the depression is that mirror we wake up to every morning and reminding ourselves that we have to keep moving forward, regardless of the pain behind us and the challenges ahead of us.
For higher resolution versions of the above: