One of the difficult things with depression, least for me is the up/down day to day, week to week. There are some days where my motivation hits the floor. I don’t want to move around, I don’t have any focus on my work or home life.
Usually this is where I get that feeling my life is in a rut and my patterns are part of the painful cycle of depression. I’ve tried to use some of my general activities like my morning coffee routine, a classic shave or this blog.
Friends keep me grounded, as do the various online support groups I try to pop into. It isn’t easy, survival never is.
Anhedonia might be the worst word I’ve had to learn in the last two years. It’s textbook definition is an inability to feel pleasure, though I think it’s more apt to call it joylessness.
Read any forum or group on depression and you’ll see typical patterns. People who express that they no longer feel much of anything. I viewed it as being emotionally flatlined. It wasn’t that I was happy or sad specifically I simply couldn’t feel much of anything positive. You can have so many things in your life, a good job, a wife and family and yet depression and anhedonia can still turn all of that into a joyless series of day to day tasks.
Painful as it sounds, being aware of depression and your own sense of joylessness doesn’t automatically make it go away. Often I worry that the things I do throughout the day are essentially just me going through the motions. Smiling when I need to because that’s what people expect. I do have a few moments of what feel like happiness but it’s been a juggling act.
I know that motion or not, I have to put the effort in to at least try to feel something other than the flat emotionless state that has become too common for me. It isn’t easy and there are certainly days I just feel like giving up. Amid all that though I try to find at least one good thing that happened per day and remind myself that I can still feel things, it just takes a bit more of an active role for me now.
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.
One of the most difficult things with depression and especially depression and a divorce is I found myself reflecting a lot about all the things that went wrong and my inability to change them.
I don’t ever contend that I was blameless in the failure of my marriage. Not understanding the scale and scope of my depression was a huge part of it. My own abrasive personality not withstanding. It took a lot of sessions for me to really gradually get out of the blame game loop and start looking backwards at things I couldn’t change.
The thing is there’s still positives to be had by self reflection if taken in the right framework. It isn’t that you should dwell on self-blame and the past. Everything that was amiss I now try to look at as things I should work on to change going forward. Accepting that has been a struggle but it’s one I continue to work at every day. I try not to internalize my frustrations and seek outlets, not holding in when I disagree with things as much. Some days it feels like too-little-too-late but I remind myself that as long as I’m still here, as long as I am still trying there is no such thing as too late to improve myself.
I’ve made mention in past posts about the impact of news on depression. This week’s been a weird up and down. I take a bit of pride and happiness in seeing the occasional Olympic news. Some of the stories of athletes are simply amazing. Besides insanely gifted stand outs like Michael Phelps there’s stories like the 41 year old gold medalist from Vietnam (Hoang Xuan Vinh). Seeing some forget about national discord and just being competitors (North and South Korean Olympic shooters shaking hands). Sadly though in the news just recently is also a lot of violence.
It pains me to think that at a time when our athletes are presented before the world and trying to show a sense of unity and camaraderie that right here in the states we have riots and yet more shooting violence. I’m opting not to link to those articles. Every morning I go through the news I’ve got to make that selective choice about what to read and what to pass. It affects me less when I don’t give in the morbidity and read upon the negative articles. Sometimes I’ve found it’s easier to read up on such things mid-day when my mood is better rather than first thing in the morning or before bed (where I start to dwell on things).
I’m hoping that at least over the next few days the news balance tips towards the positive more than the violent.
This post is going to be a bit serious and possibly rub folks the wrong way so if this topic bothers you please opt out from reading this particular post. I will state for the record that I am a registered gun owner and have been a hunter. I don’t believe in trophy hunting I’ve only ever hunted game I intended to eat. Mostly that meant wild boar.
Depression and guns are often in the news in the worst possible ways because folks only ever connect the two when someone has committed suicide, or gone on a gun rampage. It’s a very serious topic and I don’t take gun ownership lightly in the least. I was taught about guns at an early age and more importantly I was drilled in gun safety from the get go. I don’t think guns are a status symbol and I was never into the fad of AR15 frames and the modification levels you could get into.
When I hit my major depressive episode stemming from the divorce my close friend who is also a hunter agreed that we would coordinate for my weapons to be housed elsewhere. For me that was simple I didn’t have a large collection and things could be packed up pretty easily. For others with large collections should could be problematic but there are ways of doing it. Things that I genuinely wish people who are facing depression, particularly if there is even a hint of suicidal thoughts, considering a safety-person. They don’t have to store ALL your guns if you have a large collection but consider things like getting rid of your ammo, firing pings, bolts to your weapons so that you can’t become a threat to yourself or others.
It is humbling and a lot to ask of any friend but if you ask me it’s one of the most helpful things you can do while you try to sort out your situation and get help for depression/suicidal thoughts.
So perhaps one of the weird things about my life is that ‘shooting’ has played a part in one form another. Most of my shooting has been behind a lens, but I am equally comfortable behind a scope as well.
I was very hesitant to get back behind the sights given my depression but I’ve monitored myself heavily and previously only gone to the range with friends. This time was a first however flying solo and the first real test of my long rifle (Remington 700 in .308). Luckily for me the folks at X-Ring Security in Waipahu have an indoor range (25 yard backstop) which can accommodate .308 Win.
It’s been almost 20 years since I fired a long rifle with an optic but I would be remiss if I didn’t say that squeezing off 20 rounds down range felt somehow very comforting. Maybe it’s because 20 years ago my life was very different, or that I felt I was stronger and more willing to take risks.
I didn’t stay long, lanes were pretty busy and I could tell from the targets and the conversations that I was surrounded by novice shooters. There was still a bit of fear being among a crowd. Anxiety got the better of me a bit but focusing on my training and gun safety kept me from getting too frazzled.
While I don’t know how aggressively I’ll pursue my other shooting hobby it does feel good to know that I haven’t lost too much of my fundamentals. Now to get back out to the outdoor range and properly sight my scopes.
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.
Saying you’re going through a divorce is already hard for most people (especially folks who haven’t gone through it) to process let alone deal with. You compound that with saying that you’ve been fighting clinical depression and the deer in headlights things becomes self evident. It’s a one-two punch to the face that for most folks how to give empathy in that situation is alien.
I won’t try to pussy foot around it, when everything first happen to me I felt like a powder keg. I know I pushed away friends, partly because I never felt like I could just say what was on my mind, partly out of fear that the most negative sides of my personality were just going to nuke any friendships I had left. There’s an even worse side that people interacting with someone with depression don’t really quite make the connection to though. Outward stigmatism towards depression starts to show up in small phrases and reactions. The usual platitudes and the ‘I’m so sorry’ are typical but for a lot of folks, I’d get a “Don’t be sad” and they’ll proceed to veer off the conversation.
For me it wasn’t until therapy and mental health groups that I realized the only real thing someone with depression wants to hear is that someone understands you’re in pain. Depression isn’t rational, so the usual platitudes while well meaning often just fall flat. For me the topical shifts were simply a reminder that no one wanted to talk about the elephant in the room, no one felt they could say anything. In some ways I realize looking back that’s not fair to them, they weren’t involved in the process of the divorce, they can’t perceive my depression.
The paradox about seeking out your friends during depression is that you almost have to pre-train your friends to understand how to react to you when you are in a depressive episode. If there was one thing I could get folks to understand it’s that there’s a distinction between being sad, being depressed and clinical depression. Being sad, we all go through those moments. Being depressed is a normal response to loss/grief etc. Clinical depression is a span of time in which your emotions are almost always negative (I won’t delve into bi polar in this case). If you’ve read through this post as someone who knows someone suffering from depression, please understand that your friend or loved one may be experiencing a sense of joylessness that isn’t just recently triggered, it may have been going on for the last year or more. They’ll have heard all the usual “be happy” advice and it hasn’t worked them. 90% of the time they just want you to be ok with hearing them out.
Most days for me are a battle between fighting my anxiety and depression and just trying to do right by my job, my budget etc. Today was one of those days where I just felt like work was one disappointing thing after another.
It’s often hard when you have a high pressure job and are often behind the 8-ball. I’ve tried to find ways to reduce my hypertension and other work related health concerns but it’s certainly an uphill battle. One odd thing I noticed and I can’t find any real correlation, I feel like days where I have iced coffee to start my day are a little better than days where I have a larger brewed up. Might just because I use less actual coffee in the iced and it’s a bit easier on the nerves.
There’s thankfully a long weekend coming up and a friend from high school that I’ll be seeing for a bit. Hopefully that helps with the ongoing items in work and stress.