Guns and Depression (Serious Topic)

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.

Home on the Gun Range (Serious topic)

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.

 

Depression and the 365 Photo Projects (Self Reflection)

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.

Stigma and the “What to do now problem”

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.

Just one of those days

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.

The Double Edged Sword of Work

The first month after my ex-wife made it clear things were done I fell into a major depressive episode. My knee jerk reaction included wanting to change so many things including my job which is by its nature stressful.

Spend enough time on forums or social media groups dedicated to depression and you’ll find some painful patterns. For a lot of folks suffering from depression there’s socioeconomic factors that combine for a one-two punch in the gut. Therapy isn’t always cheap depending on your health care options and people who suffer from severe depression and anxiety often have the hardest time with employment. For me a high stress job compounded by my anxiety and depression made it difficult to insure that I could do my job and still keep my mental health and work/life balance.

Things I found that worked for me included changing my coffee intake to just the mornings and reducing the amount I consumed.  Taking short 5-minute meditation breaks where able and hydrating a lot more than I had in the past.  Not every job affords the same options but as much as possible you need to look at changes to help you find a release during the work day so that you aren’t burning the candle at both ends.

 

Random find on Reddit/r/funny

http://owlturd.com/post/148737208419/tactical-denial-image-twitter-facebook

Now I occasional have bouts of anxiety, mostly relating to crowds and parties and such and I can admit that the above comic while meant to be funny, certainly is fairly accurate.

You don’t necessarily get rid of anxiety it’s still there, you just find a way to soldier through.

Projects and Distractions

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.

VMware Homeserver – ESXi on 6th Gen Intel NUC

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.

Routine and The Pros and Cons

Fighting your way out of depression is multilayered and one of the habits I had to form revolved around a few basic things.  Among the more ugly side effects of depression is a loss of self worth and often the loss of desire to keep ones self clean. In my case shaving became the last thing I wanted to do. Showering became a chore in itself.  I knew I had to shake this and as a result I worked on two specific routines for my morning.

(Photo by Vraxx)

In the past I had been a chronic Keurig user.  The routine was the same every morning, wake up, plonk a K-Cup, start my day and log into my PC. Following my divorce I no longer had a Keurig machine and no desire to buy anything that bulky.  I turned instead to my old, oft forgotten AeroPress. I switched from an ‘instant’ coffee to going retro, hand grinding my beans and forcing myself to make a proper cup of java.

This started me down reviving another habit, this time centered around grooming. In the past, especially as depression began to take over I’d resort to using my electric razor.  While fast and mostly effective much like the Keurig it shortened my ‘active’ time and made me very complacent. Now, I reverted back to the old days of a double edged safety razor and a shaving soap and brush. It didn’t happen overnight, a good month or so and I had gotten used to it. Luckily for me an Art of Shaving had opened up at the nearby mall.

Activity kept me from sinking too far and forced me out of bed. While it may not seem like much even a short 15 minutes of routine that can you make into a positive habit helps a lot more than one might think.

News and Triggering

There was a time that I used to be a veritable information processing fiend.  I always wanted to know everything about the world around me. Anecdotes, blogs, news articles you name it, I’d want to read it.  As depression began to settle in however I found myself getting sad any time I brought up a news site.

For me a lot of my anxiety and depression often takes the form of obsessing over details or things I can’t change. That sort of behavior loops and triggers other worse things in my case like insomnia. There are other side effects though of the constant bombardment with negative news that’s made headlines the last few years.

Huffington Post article on the matter. The aspect that we are naturally negative biased is a frightening one. It makes me concerned as mainstream media plays upon that response in how they present. One of the harsh realities of the US news in particular has been how quickly news about shootings and other gun violence propagates. For me as a gun owner it’s been particularly painful seeing the significant uptick in mass shootings.

It’s a difficult transition but I limit my news intake, I started to filter my sources more. Critically I try to balance whatever I read online that’s negative with things that are uplifting.  Be it animals, positive themed messages or stories of people helping the world rather than hurting it. The human mind does have a bias, but you can take steps to insure that your propensity towards it is kept as low as possible.