I’m an IT person by trade, originally a programmer then later a focus in system administration. I’ve read several articles that IT as a profession (probably due in part to high stress levels) is known to have a severe issue with mental health and depression in particular.
At my best typically when solving problems so one of the coping mechanisms I’ve tried to adopt has been forcing myself to run through projects and self-paced training. I’ve often worked on things called Intel NUCs, little compact mini-PCs that have allowed me to train on the newest versions of Windows and test/practice installations of applications and things I need for work. It can be costly, but then again so are classes and training courses. (Example of what I work on: https://lab-rat.com.au/2017/04/01/supermicro-vs-intel-nuc/)
The most difficult thing I’ve found with anhedonia and depression has been lack of motivation. Knowing I have a problem to solve and that the training benefits me work-wise has helped to keep me on track. Finding things that allow you to sink your teeth into them and not allowing yourself to fall further into depression is probably one of the biggest challenges that I’ve come to understand. There’s certainly mornings where I don’t want to get moving at all, where the bed feels like it’s where I should be all day. One day at a time I try to force myself not to give in to those instincts, I seek a problem and learning how to work through it gives me that small bit of reward I need to move onto the next day. If you’re finding yourself dragging, work both in and out of your comfort zone until you find something that has that perfect degree of reward that you can turn it into a habit.
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.
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.
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.
My circle of friends shrank exponentially following my divorce and depression diagnosis. A good portion of it was a direct decision by me to cut ties where I felt the conflict of friendships was too high. I’m sure some felt this was just me giving up, but sometimes you have to come to a decision to take yourself out of a situation where your mental health comes at the cost of trying to act like nothing has changed.
Having said that, I still maintain a small group of friends that I still interact with, some local, some from far away (ish). I’ve never really been a social butterfly, I’ve always felt that it wasn’t the proximity of your friends or how many of them you had, it’s the closeness of them that counted the most. I would gladly rather have ten tried and true friends than a hundred trivial ones.
One of my friends, I’ll call her M, was kind enough of to send me a care package.
The manual labor of doing a pour-over (or hand-pour) coffee has been a coping tool for me. It’s that kick start of physical activity to get my blood moving and to get my mind focusing on something other than nightmares or depressive thoughts. I grind my coffee by hand so it’s a whole experience. Gone are the days of a push button Keurig for me. Call it coffee snobbery if you want, for me it’s a way of getting active, even if only in a small measure. What’s nice though is that I found ways to gradually expand from my coffee habit to things like making desserts (Coffee Panna Cotta — Dwallops of Happy Panna Cotta)
If you’re faced with the same challenges as I’ve been. Try to find something even if it’s small. Every little bit helps if it gets you up and moving. It’s painful and easy to get trapped by depression and the physical ‘drag’ that entails. Small things can help in the long term, even if they don’t seem like it at first.
One of the hardest things that I have struggled with during therapy is being to shift away from the negative thinking and focusing on the right path towards recover. I had this idea knocking around in my head for while.
Depression changes your view of yourself. You see the most negative things. In a camera I can just change the focus point and see the background. It isn’t as easy to do with the rest of your life.
To any of my friends who might be reading this, I hope this gives you a little insight into my expression of my depression.
My first birthday post divorce was pretty rough. I really didn’t want “things” and time with friends was far more meaningful for me. Of course the circle of friends I still maintain did great by me and got me gifts that were useful and well thought out.
For myself however I initially didn’t get anything. I had thought about a laptop but those plans weren’t that great. In the end an on the whim purchase did come to me and honestly it was a ridiculous one. Asus STRIX 1080GTX OC edition. A high end video card in a bracket that in the past I would have deemed stupidly expensive. But you only get a few birthdays and I needed a pick me up.
The part arrived today and I got a chance to benchmark it. The programmer and overall hardware geek in me was just stupidly happy. In the end it is complete overkill. I only ever really make use of the video card for gaming and when doing photo editing (CUDA cores can help with video and photoshop performance). Beyond that it’s just power waiting on standby. Still there is a sense of self-fulfillment when one realizes something you put together is running and running well. While it might be gloried retail therapy for now I am very pleased with my choice of splurge items and hopefully it proves to be something that lasts a good long while.
It’s not often that I think back about too many of the unfinished projects I’ve had but one stuck out with me. Like a lot of folks, the idea of a 365 photo a day project was interesting but it wasn’t until I started taking a few that I realized my life was pretty isolated. It wasn’t that there weren’t people in my life. There was my now ex-wife, family, our dog. No, it was more a self imposed isolation, or perhaps isolation of heart would be a more apt description.
Hadn’t really thought about how ever day, every shot started to remind me that my days were a loop. When Monday, and Saturday all look and feel the same you start to question what’s the point to the things you do. Depression creeps into your life in strange and painful ways and unfortunately that project, left incomplete by likely 200 days was a subtle peek at my depression that I recognized too late. Hindsight is 20-20 though and here I am now looking back on that project and seeing not my former artistic eye but a painful trail of things not so positive.
I doubt I’ll ever get into projects like that again, ones drive by popularity and trends. I used the phrase “my heart’s just not in it” a lot towards the end of my marriage. Here on out I need to try to find those things that my heart is in. Even if the projects are painful, long and never get seen.
Being able to focus on positive things during severe depressive episodes is a critical thing. For me besides my artistic projects which were more therapeutic focused I also tried to spend time working on various technology oriented projects (this blog and a revamp of my neglected for years website).
One of the last projects I worked on was very much off the wall. Building VMware ESXi systems and a Hyper-V testbed system out of Intel NUCs. In my youth I probably would have tinkered with a car, or lesser scale an RC car but these days it’s things that can overlap with my work. Perhaps owing to the same mindset that causes my depression to get me into a negative loop, I’ll typically bulldog problems in projects until I can find solutions.
There’s several great resources. While my generation of NUCs are all 5th Generation, it sounds like the newer devices can be made to work with ESXi as well and there’s an interesting community that use them for the same purpose as I was, test labs and home servers.