Tuesday, October 11, 2011

house guest or permanent resident?

I would really like to smack my depression upside of the head right now.  I have no idea why it's scrambled my brains with my great-grandmother's hand-crank egg beater again.

Which, ironically enough, looks almost exactly like this one.
image source: The Prepared Pantry

Since April I felt at peace with the depression in many ways... like it had finally decided to die and a rock inscribed with the capitals R.I.P. was all that was left to mar my memories.  I did have enough sense to know then that it was only dormant, but I took full advantage of its indifference to torturing me by having a pretty good summer.  Sure, it resurrected itself every so often, but it always managed to go away after a few days or so.  It never stuck around longer than four days, and gave me time to take care of other issues that would have otherwise left me a mess had it decided to poke its nose in my life at that time.

I wouldn't say that my sadness has transitioned from the spaced-out cases of the blues that struck at various times this summer to a full-blown depression, but the attacks of the blues have become more frequent and more vicious since I returned from my European trip.  I know why in a vague sense.  I haven't eaten well or exercised enough in the past few weeks, I used my boss's month-long trip to India as an excuse to turn into a cranky workaholic by trying to make his businesses "perfect" when he himself is just fine with "getting by," and the constant web of relationships any somewhat sociable human has in their life is always a balancing act between delightful mutual enjoyment of each other's company and mental and emotional stress when misunderstandings, real or imagined shortcomings, and vulnerabilities arise. 

The sadness has gotten noticeably worse, however, and I am rather alarmed.  The insomnia has returned, as has my inability to get up in the mornings after a night mostly spent fretting at work until two in the morning trying to make sure everything is filed away and nothing new is left for the next morning.

I guess my major issues are these:

  • Trying too hard to be perfect all of the time
  • Not knowing when to say "No" to others when they demand too much time and resources from my limited supply (like a boss who has spent the last four weeks in India makes too many odd demands on my abilities at strange hours and then doesn't even tell me that he will extend his Indian holiday one additional week because I am doing too good of a job)
  • Comparing myself to everyone else and what I perceive as their successes
  • Continually contemplating the Meaning of Life and my Great Life Purpose in a metaphorical Heaven v. Hell sort of way

What a ridiculous list.  

I need to reorganize what it most important to me.  Like focus on my actual career goals.  Being a personal assistant/secretary is not what I wanted to do with my life, although I will admit that I have always recognized my mad office managing abilities.  But I hardly do any sort of fiction writing anymore, and my history readings have mostly gone to the wayside as well (excepting the Victorian Era, of course.)  

Also, I need to teach that little voice in my head to stop being so negative.  To not be such a miserable little nag, but rather a helping hand, a friendly word of advice to put me back on track.  Anyone have any ideas on how to effectively do that?

Is there anything in your life that you need to reprioritize?


  1. Hello,

    I realize we've never spoken and I just found your blog recently, but this article has really resonated.

    How do you feel about alternative medical practices? While I'm hesitant to offer advice on a field I am just entering, in Traditional Chinese Medicine it is normal for a sense of depression or sadness to arise in the fall. Autumn is a time of letting tings go, preparing for the dormancy of winter, and a certain amount of sadness always accompanies this process.

    So I think it is good and normal to be feeling this increased consideration of your priorities and looking at your life critically. Gods know I'm going through this right now.

    I find that it is distantly helpful to know that the emotions I am feeling, no matter how poignant they are to my senses now, are part of a natural cycle.

    I hope this helps. If I have stepped out of line, I sincerely apologize and ask you to discount this comment.

    ~ Lynette

  2. It's really difficult to shut that internal voice up. It might help to convert it to something positive as quickly as possible when negative thoughts creep in. Dive into something you love, ASAP! Do a craft project, look up things that inspire you online, put together a new ensemble for a fun outfit post! If you are unable to refocus at that exact moment (say, while you are at work) try to look forward to doing something you enjoy later. Tell yourself you will put aside your problems for just an hour when you get home and spend some time just for you. It can be hard to make time, but you have to start saying "no" to little things at first and then work up to bigger things once you've developed a skill for doing it tactfully.

    When it comes to re-prioritizing, I make a list of all the things that are staring me in the face before an overwhelmingly busy weekend. When I can see them all laid out side by side, it's easier for me to which are most important, which can wait, and which can be eliminated altogether.

    Sometimes people won't like that you can't be there for them every second, but they'll get used to it if you show them it's not because you don't care. Sometimes people don't realize how many *other* people are also making demands on your time. Try explaining to them all that you have going on, not in a "I'm whining and dumping my problems on you" kind of way but in a "Things have gotten really busy and I need to figure out how to manage my time" kind of way.

    That's what works for me, anyway. I deal with way-too-busy weekends regularly and it makes me very unhappy when I don't make active efforts to manage it.

  3. @ Lynette- I am open to alternative medicine practices. And thank you for your advice- you are certainly not stepping out of line! I will try my hardest to see it as a natural thing. I guess one of my issues is I have been struggling with the depression for nearly five years now, and it only gave me a respite in the past year or so. I'm not sure if it is a seasonal thing. Then again, one never knows!

    @ VictorianKitty- You're right, I do need to make more "me" time. I do need to do something I love. Writing, historical fiction writing, is something I should dedicate an hour to each day. I know how to do it- the issue, as you correctly recognized, it putting others' demands on my time before my own. I shall endeavour to fix that.

    Thanks so much for both of your great advice!

  4. Well, this is kind of late, but I know better than most that Depression never really goes away, the wave just subsides occasionally. I hope your head is out of the water right now, but if not, I hope my half-baked psychological meanderings can help a little. ;p

    I've been diagnosed with chronic major depression since I was a child, in the 80's. I've been in the mental health system in one way or another since my early 20's. 6 yrs. ago I was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis. I'm not ashamed to say that the wave pretty much engulfed me for 5 of those years. Only in the last year or so have I found a way of life, of thinking, that works for me.

    Sorry for the mini-history, I just want you to understand that I sort of know what you are going through. You are absolutely right about the voice in your head, the "tape" as my doctor calls it. Everyone has one. The problem is, it was recorded/burned into our minds for a long, long time, and it will not go away or change overnight. It takes patient work and attention to listen to what it says...and rewrite it.

    One technique that I use frequently is called "reframing". The concept is simple...when we run into a situation that upsets us one way or another, it's usually because of the way we automatically see things. The way the tape tells us we should. Take that picture, and reframe it.

    For instance...I walk into a room, and my tape tells me that I am in the way, disturbing everyone, with my walker and my weight and my very presence...(told ya I was pretty depressed)...and I should feel shamed and embarrassed and apologize to everyone.

    A simple reframe of the situation is to tell myself the truth. No one is likely thinking of me, they are listening to their own tapes, and even if they are, it's unlikely that their opinions are as negative as I feel they are.

    For you, as you mentioned, you have trouble saying no when people ask you to do things.

    There is most likely a bit of tape that says something like "If I don't do this for them, they will be angry, or think I'm lazy." Or, alternately, "If I don't do everything everyone asks, all the time, then I'm a failure, and not perfect like I try to be."

    Mind you, these are not generally conscious thoughts, they are engraved deep into your subconscious, but you can translate them from taking a careful look at your feelings and intentions in each situation.

    In the above situation, a reframe might be something on the order of "I am a good employee/friend, and I do a lot of things for people, but I need to make sure I am healthy enough to do the things I can. If I give until I am exhausted, then no one gets help!"

    Sorry this got so long, I just really empathize with you, and wanted to give you a tool that may help.

    Good luck staying afloat!