A Flip Side to “Fake it till you make it” — Berkeley Study

Feeling bad about feeling bad can make you feel worse

I happened upon this and thought it was pretty timely. One of the difficult aspects of depression is trying to maintain a positive mental attitude and a lot of times there a view of sort of ‘faking it’ until you get better.

I’ve often wondered what kinds of negative implications this may have and one of my views has been that as I started to understand my depression more I stopped trying to put on a smile and accepted my darker emotions and tried to focus on processing through them rather than burying them away. I stopped telling folks “I’m good” when I knew I was having a hard go of things.

The idea really isn’t new, the concept that bottling up your emotions usually only leads to more explosive outbursts later. My father had a temper, and growing up I always worked to keep mine under wraps. Often wonder if that was a disservice to myself. We all manifest emotional stress differently and I think in my case it was a downward spiral into depression which caused me to hurt those close to me.

The important take away I had from the article was the idea that I need to make sure I am finding safe, constructive outlets for the stress and negative emotions I feel. Some of my choices, admittedly, are a bit less safe than others but for myself I’ve always found a degree of danger and adrenaline has seemed to be the only way around my depressive episodes. Be it racing cars, hunting or just shooting at a gun range. Whatever your particular outlet try to make sure it’s a something positive and work your way through the down times. You don’t have to necessarily smile, but you do have to move forward.

 

Birthdays, Suicides and Navigating Difficult Times

The recent news of Chester Bennington’s suicide hit me pretty hard. I enjoyed his work with Linkin Park and even his turn as the lead vocal for Stone Temple Pilots.

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/7873783/linkin-park-chester-bennington-suicide

Like many in the music industry he had his share of demons. Abuse in his youth, substance issues later in life.  He hanged himself on the birthday of his friend Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave) who also committed suicide in May. Their music spoke to me; even if only peripherally; when I felt down I could listen to their lyrics and feel like I wasn’t isolated. Pain comes in many forms and often it seems those who touch so many with their expressions of pain, challenges and sometimes redemption are the ones suffering the most inside.

The timing of it all is particularly painful for me.  Today is my own birthday and I am reminded of two greats who share the same day as myself,  Robin Williams and Ernest Hemingway. Giants in their fields, remember even today, but also struggling for much of their lives.

In my own life, I’ve often used humor as a defense mechanism. Preferring to see others laugh and be amused even when inside I felt isolated and empty. Slowly I’ve taken off my clown make up as it were and I try to present just the me that’s there. Sour attitude, sardonic to a fault and bare. Probably lost a few friends along the way but I feel like at least now I’m being more honest with myself and those around me.

A friend commented that I should reach out if I feel the pull of suicide ever creep back. I somewhat deflected, saying that I have a contingency plan in place for my firearms when that happens. I am far more mindful of my mental and emotional state when things like this happen though. I shift my diet to brace, I try to get a bit more exercise and movement into my daily routine. I avoid negative news where I can. It probably seems weird to someone who’s never dealt with a clinical diagnosis to see the myriad of small things needed to help cope. I often think that in itself is half the reason depressive disorders are so stigmatized. Do what you have to do however and do not let yourself sink. For me, it’s far easier to maintain a flat emotional state than to try to recover once I’ve sunken. If you’re going through a difficult time, or on the cusp of an episode, start the prepping now. Try to give your mind and body as much ammo as needed to deal with the downturn and the stressor responses you’re going through. It isn’t easy, depression never is, but we all have small things we can do to make it through.

 

Depression and Helping Your Partner Cope

https://www.ualberta.ca/news-and-events/newsarticles/2017/february/want-to-help-your-partner-deal-with-depression-try-a-little-tenderness

I happened upon this article and thought it was a good suggestion right around Valentine’s Day. A painful aspect of depression stems from the tendency towards doing the opposite of what reflex would tell you to do.

For me I realize when my depression continued to escalate I became harder and harder to live with. The best comparison is being a porcupine. The last thing you want to do is keep that close to you or cuddle it. To both those around the person experiencing depression as well as the person him/herself, instinct gravitates towards the opposite of what should be done. Tenderness is not the first reflex when someone is starting to withdraw or became more irritable than normal.

The most difficult thing about the experience (from the perspective of the depressed person) is that you can’t step out of your own mind and objectively assess what’s happening. You feel as though you want to withdraw from social situations and not seek help.

If you or your significant other are experiencing these types of things, try to take that big leap and objectively look at your circumstances. Reach out, communicate to someone of your pain. It’s the hardest first step, sometimes it can lead to empathy, sometimes confusion, potentially rejection but you have to take it.

The Culture Change of America and Suicides

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/11/04/more-us-middle-school-students-dying-suicide-than-car-crashes.html

I came across the following article and it really struck a nerve with me. I was certainly an awkward kid, didn’t find my way until well into college. Todays figures though with suicides outpacing vehicular deaths is truly disheartening.

I would never contend that there is a singular cause to this painful upward trend in middle schooler deaths, but I often wonder if the pressures of a connected society and bullying have created a more hostile environment for children today than decades past. I can’t imagine how my life would have been if the attention of bullies didn’t end when I got back home. People having save-havens somewhere they feel they can be themselves is becoming more and more a rarity and it’s something that I think parents, teachers and other students need to start paying more attention to.

Depression strikes anyone at any age. Keeping an eye on various depression support groups I’ve seen the gradual increase. It used to be mostly college students, people in their 20’s and 30’s.  These days we see reports of kids as young as 12 who have been diagnosed and are on medication. When i was 12 I was worried about the school lunch, not what anti-depressants I was going to be on.

Immunity, Awareness and Media

Sorry couldn’t think of a snazzier title, but I thought it good to highlight a recent CNN article regarding Olympian Allison Schmitt who came forward about her struggle with depression.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/09/health/turning-points-allison-schmitt-depression-struggle/index.html

I think for someone in her position, especially something as competitive as Olympic caliber swimming, her willingness to publicly discuss her diagnoses and struggle is a big deal. The first statistic mentioned in the article is that 6.7% of adults have had at least one depressive episode. Figures on how many people suffer from chronic depression or major depressive disorder are more difficult to come by. One of the sobering thoughts is that there’s no such thing as an immunity to depression.  It can strike just about anyone.  While physical activity is often suggested as one of the first ways to combat depression if it can befall an Olympian you realize it’s a multi-layer problem.

Comedians, business icons, every day people.  We all face struggles, we all face the possibility that we may be suffering from clinical depression. If there is some solace it is that now people are coming forward and trying to get folks to seek help. I know I was probably on a very bad road leading up to my divorce and while it is painful and difficult taking those first steps to get therapy, to look at treatment options has made a significant difference.

 

 

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.