Pets as Therapy — Doge Therapy…

Before my divorce my spouse and I had a precocious female black and tan shiba inu.  If you’re familiar at all with the whole doge meme you’ll have seen the red colored shibas all over the net.

Mahina, our shiba, kept me company as I worked from home most days. She was pretty aloof but she’d check on me from time to time and that company was a big help when my stress from work would hit peak levels. Mahina stayed with my ex-wife. She was after all her dog and I couldn’t afford to keep a pet in my current living situation. Having had a pet and then going back to pet-less I can genuinely see how much of a benefit a therapy animal can be for someone. It’s something my therapist and I have also talked about but laws in our state are a little tricky. If you have the ability to care for a pet and are struggling with depression and anxiety I think it’s something you should consider.  Keep in mind laws regarding how to get a dog licensed as a therapy dog vary by where you live. As far as the US is concerned there’s a very distinct line drawn between therapy/companion dogs and service dogs (such as seeing eye dogs) who are allowed greater access.

Honestly this attached youtube clip is just to show what a black and tan shiba looks like.

Art Therapy, iPads and Pigment

One of the things that I began using as a coping tool which surprised even me, was art therapy. I’ll be the first to tell you that before really coming to grips with my depression I had written off ‘adult coloring books’ as a weird trending idea drummed up by someone who thought they could market something to the multitudes of people suffering from depression.

I can report however that art therapy does have a place in helping with depression, stress and anxiety. I am generally not a huge fan of iOS apps outside of those used for media consumption.  However, I took a chance on an app called Pigment after I saw the UI design. (Pigment — Handy for when I’m working or just having trouble sleeping, the application provides an easy to use interface, the option to backup your creations and reset them.  Recently (much to my surprise) they even added a feature to import photos you’ve taken and try to covert them into usable painting canvases.  I say ‘try’ because the system basically does a black and white conversion allowing you to color in the areas that are now white.

If you’re an iPad Pro user the Apple Pencil with it’s improved range of pressure and angle works especially well.  There’s no catch-all tool that fixes depression, but if you have the funds I do suggest at least trying out Pigment. It’s a nice alternative if you don’t want to maintain old fashioned color pencils and printed coloring books.

The Foods of Depression

OK this will be a bit of an off the wall post stemming from a few random conversations I saw on reddit/r/depression.  For folks who have never experienced clinical depression it might be hard to imagine the severity of motivation loss. Someone raised the question, what foods do you try to cook when you literally don’t even want to crawl out of bed. This got me thinking since cooking is one of the other coping tools I’ve used to try to keep myself active.

So in no particular order here were some of the foods I realized I cooked often when I experienced the most severe episodes of depression.

Pancakes w/fruit — Usually blueberries or bananas. Probably as it’s a comfort food, and easy to make. Go easy on the syrup and other heavy sugars and it’s not terrible to make this while depressed.

Somen/Cold Saimin — Sitting around waiting for something to boil or warm up becomes a chore in itself so I often cooked cold, almost ready to serve dishes. Boil noodles ahead of time, chop your ingredients and lunch/dinner becomes less daunting a task.

Spaghetti — This one is a bit of a mixed bag. The actual process of making it can be involved (semi home made pasta sauce etc) but using a food sealer to create ready to boil servings of pasta and some pre-cooked noodles cuts down on the dinner time waiting and it’s a fun comfort food.

Cucumbers/Carrots/Beets/Lettuce —  Always on hand. I’ll be open and admit that when my depression is at its worst I have a really hard time eating veggies and fruits so I’ve always tried to keep vegetables that I can eat raw or throw into a quick salad.  Keep one or two good dressings and it gets a little easier to deal with meal time and healthy eating.

Bad things I still wound up eating, things I’d avoid however, heavy sugars, baked goods, things with a lot of sodium. It’s really easy to start drowning yourself in sugary things and canned foods but with my hypertension it’s something I had to really be aware of.  A lot of those things gave me headaches or kept me up at night.

Sci-Fi Distractions — Finding Escape

So one of the things that’s helped me here and there is being able to get away from news, getting away from gritty dramas on TV that mostly center around high stress situations. After a while I really became numb watching all the cop dramas and medical shows which almost always involved death on a practically episodic basis.

While still having drama elements, I’ve found that Sci-Fi programming has often provided a better release for me.  Maybe because of the fantasy aspect of it, or the possibilities of an unmade future.  SyFy channel (I still hate their rebranding) has actually done very well lately with three great shows.  Dark Matter (based on graphic novel) and Killjoys. Dark Matter’s tone is a bit more heavy but raises a lot of interesting social questions within its storytelling.  Identity, choice, what it means to be human, each of those elements is raised throughout the shows current two seasons (season two airing now).  Killjoys on the other hand is a bit like a Firefly universe.  A small close knit crew, a broader big-bad story, megacorporations.

Though the new season won’t air until 2017, The Expanse, based on the novel series of the same name is a more hardcore space-opera but done extremely well.  I would watch with a bit of caution as it can be a bit more emotionally invested.

All three series were engrossing enough for me to keep locked in and helped as an escape from some of the less pleasant things going on in my life right now.

Olympics and Seeing A Better Side of The Globe

The Olympics serve as a weird counter example to me. On the one hand seeing America’s athletes really push it and go for the gold is great. I have an uplift in my sense of nationalism at a time when I mostly just facepalm every time I read the news.  Then again we see examples of what happens when fame, pressure and gold get to your head (I’m lookin’ at you Ryan Lochte).

We’ve seen some amazing acts of sportsmanship such as the crash between runners Hamblin and D’Agostino. With both women supporting one another after a bad collision.  The amazing success of Usain Bolt capturing his 9th medal. Nations obtaining gold for the first time in decades such as Vietnam with two medals in shooting.

It’s a run of positives for the most part as you see people around the world competing to find out how good they are.  The irony to me is they made it to the worlds grandest stage.  Every olympian, every paraolympian should stand head high because they’ve achieved something most of us can only imagine.

For someone battling depression it’s good see people trying against the odds, it’s a slippery slope to be sure. I remain set upon trying to see the positive side of it. If athletes can overcome hardship I have to try to do the same. I may have fallen (divorce/depression) but like those runners I can get back up. While it sounds corny, I suppose in some ways I can imagine that every tiny victory against depression is a gold medal in not giving up.



World Photography Day — When The Motivation is Gone

I guess everything has a day these days and apparently it’s World Photography day.

There was a time I would have enjoyed this and tried to shoot something but if I’m being fully honest there’s no motivation for me to pick up any of my glass. The loss of my passion for the things I used to enjoy, photography chief among, them has been one of the most painful things I’ve come to understand about my depression.

While I’ve had up/down moments where I’ve been able to use my photography as a therapeutic element I’ll be honest this week at least hasn’t been one of them. I may try to force myself to shoot some footage this weekend but this week I’ve had the hardest time keeping focus. Just have to keep trying, good or bad.


Thank You Captain Obvious…

As a colorblind photographer I had to roll my eyes at this one. While I’m sure there may be a bias towards certain filters I found some of the conclusions to be a little insulting. I’ve shot black and while and used filters that tend towards that both before and during my depression. On the other hand I’ve used brighter,might contrast stuff while in the worst of my depression.

While certainly darker tones and colors are common in subjects that depict depression or sadness I don’t feel like you can identify it through an algorithm.

Routine and Rut

Something that’s occasionally hard to describe about depression is the feeling of life being one big loop.  Had Nine Inch Nails’ track Every Day Is Exactly the Same playing in the back of my mind for a while lately.  Guess the routine and motivational issues I’ve had this week have been particularly difficult.

Trying to adjust my diet a bit with more fruits and vitamin C as I feel I haven’t gotten much in the way of sunlight and exercise. Even as I start off this 3-day weekend (Yay Admissions Day) I realize even my days off are sort of a basic routine of run errands, clean and try to work on coping tools. Hopefully besides this blog and other side projects I can occasionally change things up more going forward.

A Little Positive News About People Helping One Another

Negative news predominates so much of media out there but there are at times positive moments that should be more recognized. The story of US runner Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealander Nikki Hamblin.  After a stumble and collision both athletes could have simply stopped and accepted they wouldn’t advance.  D’Agostino urged Hamblin to get up and finish her run.

After realizing she herself was injured D’Agostino slowly made her way to the finish with Hamblin waiting there and calling for medical staff. On the world’s greatest stage, where the competition can be cut throat, it was great to see camaraderie.



Interesting New Medical Approach for Major Depression

I have to admit this is not a treatment option I would have imagined. My only real knowledge of ketamine is as it relates to helping people suffering from opioid addiction. For what it’s worth I can understand the idea of using it for improve neuroplasticity in patients but I do worry that the sensitivity of users and the impact as relates to opioid resistance is a delicate balance.