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.
April is quickly becoming one of my least favorite months. Besides tax time; which already sucks; it also marks the anniversary of my divorce. As my marriage ended I thought filing shortly around tax time would be a good choice, we’d have filed the last set of taxes we would need to jointly and then that was it.
All that doesn’t make April any easier though. Oddly I’ve been reluctant to listen to much in the way of music this month as often music triggers pretty strong memories for me. Gave it a whirl though, mostly listening to older rock tracks and I happened upon a band that I first listened to a few years ago on YouTube.
Preemptive warning — The lyrics to this song are not kind in the slightest but the emotion and anger are connecting with a part of me that I need to just sort of get out there. Stop here if you don’t feel this is your thing.
I Prevail/Love, Lust and Liars
Sometimes you can’t find the words, and I appreciate that musicians are out there belting out finger numbing riffs and throaty emotion laden lyrics. The band’s name is also a reminder to me that I have to keep moving forward, so thanks I Prevail. If this track was something could relate to, please be sure to check the band’s site and considering supporting the band with a purchase (available on iTunes and Google Play)
The first step is always the hardest; that was certainly the case for me. Prevailing stigma around mental health often leads to a compounded issue where there’s so much pressure to hide that you fail to seek help.
In my case my choice to seek help came too late to save my marriage but perhaps prevented me from falling further down the rabbit hole and certainly took me back from risk for suicide. As an Asian-American male there’s a lot of cultural stigma not only for being a guy but on both ends of my cultural spectrum.
I’ve been happy to see the increasing public awareness towards depression and anxiety, but there’s still a considerable amount of negative stigma and assumed ‘risk’ for folks suffering from more severe cases such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and others. As a hunter and gun owner I can tell you when I was diagnosed I worried constantly that I was a danger to myself and others. Thankfully with the help of a good circle of friends whom I trust with my firearms I have a way to drop my risk factors when I feel a depressive episode forming. CBT and a lot more personal awareness and diligence have done their part as well. There’s no instant solution; of that I’m always conscious; but every little bit helps.
One of the difficult things I’ve struggled with amid my divorce has been a sort of looping self-hate. It isn’t easy when you look at the failure of marriage and one of the immediate things you factor is yourself.
These days I look back and I feel very toxic, as though I was simply something that a spouse would want to get away from. The rational side of me understands that’s only part of the equation. There were many factors at work. Some that I contributed, some that she did. Knowing that however doesn’t make waking up and looking in the mirror any easier. It’s a weird feeling, wanting to avert your eyes from yourself.
Little by little I’ve tried to find ways to be comfortable in my own skin but that has been the longest road of all in this journey of recovery. There’s days I drift off the road and into the bramble, days I’d rather punch the mirror than go through my morning shave. Every day, a small step away from the things that happened, the things I can’t change to something I can try to change.
For anyone else staring down that insufferably long road, I know how you feel. Sometimes you just want to stop moving forward, stopping on the side and letting everything else pass you by. It’s the easiest route, but it doesn’t change anything to get stuck there. Every step, every day is a little progress to something different, even if you don’t see it now. Sounds like an over idealistic bit of drivel doesn’t it? I know, that sarcastic snap back is almost reflexive for me too but the idea isn’t wrong. If you’re having a hard time on the road right now, give it time. I’m not looking for fast changes any time soon myself but I’m going to keep trying to take those steps forward, because the alternatives don’t appeal much to me either.
It might just be my personal opinion but I’ve always felt like depression is in some ways like a perpetual April Fools. Every morning you wake and depression has something lined up to trick your mind into perceiving things in the worst possible ways.
I have to remind myself frequently that being more likely to suffer from depression isn’t a choice. Fighting against depression however is and it’s a choice I make every day. At times it’s exhausting but I know in the long run it’s what I need to do.
So today if you’re feeling like depression is playing another one of its cruel jokes, keep moving forward, focus on your treatment courses, medication, CBT whatever it may be and don’t let depression get one over on you.
Considering the topic of my last blog post finding this article was very interesting. I’ve often wondered how much of an impact depression and loneliness has on general health and recovery. While the idea of positive mental attitude when ill has been around for a very long time, it was refreshing to see a recent study.
I don’t necessarily think that the study and its methodology aren’t without fault but I think people who are already experiencing loneliness could perceive illness as another indicator of isolation. For me in some ways I view the solitude and depression when I’m ill as just another layer that affects my ability to interact with others. Either way it’s an additional reminder that I have to be more mindful of my health than perhaps some other folks.
There was a time not so long ago that my geek flag would fly true. I’m a sci-fi/comics fan primarily but I also enjoyed anime too. I’d volunteered at the local conventions and helped out as a photographer. It was in fact how I met my future ex wife. Flash forward to today and the idea of going to a convention is the last thing on my mind.
The last few years my fandom had waned considerably as I found myself undiagnosed and going through a depressive episode. My heart wasn’t in anything, photography, comics/sci-fi none of it felt like something I was able to get into heavily. At the time; like anyone would; I attributed it to a basic case of the blues or work stress or just getting older. I ignored the growing symptoms of depression and it cost me dearly. Now a year after my divorce I look back and wonder what changes I could have made but realize that I shouldn’t dwell on those things I can’t change.
Today I look at the fandom and I generally don’t feel like I belong there. Beyond the fact my ex and her boyfriend are part of that community, I myself don’t feel like I have my heart in it. I’ve tried to focus on activities where I still feel a challenge and something that keeps me trying to improve. Marksmanship has been one such activity, perhaps because it blends physical and mental sharpness and there’s a very visceral aspect of shooting that appeals to me. While I sometimes try to revisit sci-fi/comics and anime my interest is definitely tempered. I’ve learned when to disconnect more to focus on my real world and not entertainment. Fighting anhedonia has been one of the weirdest things but I continue to try and find methods to deal with the sense that there’s no “fire” in much of what I do. Certainly is not easy but I’m more acutely aware of when those feelings are running rampant and try to get out of the negative thinking and rumination that goes along with it.
You wouldn’t normally think of tax time as being a big trigger but this year for me at least, it is. It’s been almost a year since my divorce was final and having to see the name of my ex-wife on old-tax records hasn’t been an easy thing to get through.
Wish I could say “I’m doing great” but that would be disingenuous. The reality is “I’m surviving”. For now at least that’s the most important thing I can do. I rarely pick up a camera these days, I’m almost certain I won’t be doing portrait photography for the foreseeable future. Anhedonia and art doesn’t aren’t very conducive to one another.
I’ve focused on trying to find activities that I can still sink my teeth into and those have been admittedly few and far between. My only real hope is that come April the last of the legal and financial matters will be done with and I can focus purely on working on myself and my future. It’s a long road but I’m turning the first major corner I hope.
There’s some anniversaries you look forward to, then there are those you dread. Next month will make a full year since my divorce was finalized. To say I was in a low place during the process would be an understatement and while I’m not out of the woods by any stretch I think I’m better prepared to deal with the things that need to happen to get better these days.
The last few days I felt the onset of a depressive episode forming and tried to cut it off at the pass so to speak. I dropped my sugar and red meat intake, I began eating more oatmeal and fruit. In a previous post I likened depression to seeing an oncoming train. The metaphor has a bit of another layer that I thought about recently. While you might be able to side-step the tracks, there’s still the force of the train going past (wind, noise etc) that you still have to deal with. The same can be said (at least for me) to what happens when an episode hits. I may not be able to avoid all the affects but I’m able to keep myself from sinking too far and lessening the symptoms.
During a conversation with a friend we discussed the somewhat rough feeling of the extra burden of knowing when an episode is coming and the cognitive processes and work effort to not let it harm you. While most folks only periodically need to reflect as much, those of us prone to depression/anxiety are on almost constant watch. There’s a mental drain that comes from that vigilance that I’m still trying to reconcile.
Be it S.A.D. or other things that are triggering an episode for you, don’t lose heart, don’t give in. Every bit of fighting it helps.