Month: May 2014

Helpful Links

Blue and Droopy and Still BeautifulI recently found a treasure trove of useful links about depression on Reddit.

I was thrilled to see a lecture on depression by Robert Sapolsky, the author of one of the books in the “Books To Chill To” post. The lecture is almost an hour long, but he does a fantastic job of laying out the case for depression as a serious biological condition, and describes the biology and psychology of depression in a compelling and approachable way. I found this video very validating. I think it’ll be helpful not only for friends and family who are trying to understand what their loved one is going through, but also for people in the midst of the shitstorm who doubt the credibility of their own experience and symptoms.

Wing of Madness Depression Guide is an almost twenty year old blog on depression. It’s not overly technical, but it is well researched and the tone is somewhat formal. I love that it has a Start Here post that walks the reader through a context for depression, understanding a diagnosis, and tips on seeking treatment. There are also TONS of links to articles, curated for sufferers as opposed to mental health professionals.

I really like this article from the New York Times. It argues that trying to find an up-side to depression is to minimize the seriousness of the disease. I completely agree.

Healthy Place: America’s Mental Health Channel is more formal than Wing of Madness. If you’re looking for good information about types of depression, symptoms, etc., this is a great, centralized collection of information. They have a mood journal app that I haven’t checked out yet but that looks good. Anything that makes tracking your mood less maddening gets an A+ in my book.

More to come.

 

Photo by Dominic Alves on Flickr

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Take That Suckaaaaa: Asking for Help #4

I recently had a birthday. Birthdays, for me, have been rough since I was a teenager. The rest of the year I can manage the desperation caused by my deep certainty that I’m not living out my values. Leading up to my birthday I’m paralyzed with guilt, frustration, and shame.

My close friends and family understand that I hate my birthday and so, understandably, tend to not make a big deal of it – leaving me to feel alone with the meanest of voices. Enter cycle of frustration: me woefully ignorant of why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling and unable to set things up so I’ll get what I need, my friends kindly trying to give me some peace and quiet, totally unaware that what I want is company and support.

Blame yourself for the infuriatingly stupid cycle, double down on the shame, get nonsensically mad at your friends, know that’s ridiculous, triple down on the shame. Eugh.

So, in keeping with my new tradition of asking for help in weird, awkward ways, this year I threw a small party. I invited only people I really like, and told them in the invitation that I was embarrassed but that I’ve been trying my ass off and what I really want is some validation and positive reinforcement. I opened my notebook to a blank page and people left me notes while they munched on Thai food and enjoyed some whiskey and NA beer.

It was the best birthday I can remember.

I was told that I was doing positive things for others that I never would have guessed. I was told that my friends were rooting for me, fiercely. I was told things that cut through the fog, things that made me honestly, happily proud of myself. I was told things that validated my seemingly glacial improvement and shamed that mean voice into silence. For once – silence.

Sometimes you ask for help and you get liverwurst. Sometimes you ask for help and you get kind words and actions that you’re not ready for, that you can’t really hear or appreciate. Sometimes you ask for help and you get thanks.

Sometimes the victory is in the asking, sometimes it’s in the helping. Sometimes it’s in the – TAKE THAT SUCKAAAAA!!!! Mic drop – you get to hurl toward that pesky, finally weakening, mean voice.

 

Take that Suckaaaa.

Suckaaaaa

 

Photo by Lwp Kommunikacio on Flickr

Thoughts Are Not Convictions. Feelings Are Not Beliefs.

I have felt the need to answer for my thoughts. Big thoughts – about what others should do with their lives. Little thoughts – that the woman walking slowly in front of me is a moron. Thoughts that I don’t act on because I know they are unfounded.

Mean thoughts make me ashamed. Hopeful fantasies are embarrassing. So I try to unwind them, to sort them out and figure out their meaning. I have conversations, sometimes fights, in my head with the objects of my thoughts, defending them, apologizing for them, trying to explain myself.

It’s a lot of work and you know what? It sucks.

Thoughts are not convictions. I didn’t tell my friend what to do with his life because I know that if someone knows what’s best for him – it’s not me. I didn’t so much as scowl at the woman on the street. I just had a thought. If I’d let it, it would pass into the ether, surrounded by billions of thoughts, true and untrue. Valid and ridiculous. Lovely, silly, sad, and sane.

There are things you can do to improve your internal monologue, to make your mind more peaceful or kind. But you will never control every thought. And you do not have to answer for things you cannot control.

Your thoughts and feelings are valid. Note them. Try not to push them down or drink them away. They also pass. They’re not laws of physics. They’re not character traits or even stances. They’re just thoughts and feelings.

Choose the ones you like. Choose the ones you like and pursue them. Hang on to them and learn about them. Do things to help them happen again.

The rest? Take note, then listen to the “singsong wisdom in the sound of letting go.”*

 

Let Go

 

Quoted from the poem Wish by J.M. Morea in her book where the ending begins

Photo by David Goehring on Flickr

Drastic Pain Calls for Drastic Improvements

Still Life with Skull Leeks and Pitcher by Picasso

Still Life with Skull Leeks and Pitcher by Picasso

I’ve been told by multiple mental health professionals, from psychiatrists to social workers, that I should not make big decisions while in the midst of a crisis.

I mostly think that’s terrible advice, and it’s definitely inappropriate when it comes from someone who doesn’t understand the context of your crisis. When you’re suffering an abusive relationship, it’s a huge decision to leave – a huge decision that you must make and enforce before your crisis will end. That’s an easy example, of course. There are harder ones – quitting your job when you don’t have another one lined up, ending a relationship that has its ups and downs.

But there’s something deeply marginalizing about that advice. Yes, you’re hurting, and that means you’re not qualified to choose a path, so just keep crawling along for a while. Your problems are not real, so things will probably clear up on their own.

True, you’re often not thinking clearly when you’re in a crisis. But recovery is full of big decisions. Seeking treatment itself can be a life changing decision. We’re supposed to wait? For what?

I stayed in a traumatic job for more than a year after I knew I needed to leave. I stayed in a city that I desperately wanted to leave, too. I suffered without the support of my closest friends and family, who were too far away to realize how bad I’d gotten.

Maybe I didn’t have it together enough, or didn’t have the confidence to leave. I don’t think I was blindly following bad advice – but I did take it seriously, and it was liverwurst.

A chemistry professor, who was also a minister, once told me that we live more powerfully when we live by our own choice.

Trust yourself. Find a calm moment, think on it, and trust yourself.

 

Photo of painting by Sharon Mollerus on Flickr