Depression

My first impeachment.

RAL 2017 (07-03) SOFA

I come from a family of news junkies.  I remember my mother’s father sitting in our living room devouring the daily papers. And my father’s mother lived long enough to become addicted to CNN and the 24-hour news cycle.  She was a 24-hour news devotee debating local and global politics with anyone who enjoyed a lively discussion.

I became a news junkie too. Mostly, I love tragedies and legal procedure. Tragedies provided me an outlet for all of the sadness depression dumped on me.  Legal procedure appealed to the other parts of my brain, eventually leading me to law school and then litigation. (more…)

Remember the days you seized.

RAL 2019 (04-29) DOCUMENT

A good number of approaches to health and well-being focus on the use of a daily diary or journal. We’re urged to keep track of what we take in and what we put out. Or what we felt like when we did whatever it is that we did or didn’t do.

I was never a huge fan of the daily diary for myself.  I personally found that I would record the achievement of something I wanted for a few days and then lose interest once I failed to achieve the thing.

For me, daily diaries became failure diaries.

And yet, I kept keeping track of things because keeping track of one’s self is a fun exercise.  What other subject do you have so much information about?  There’s no end to the types of information you can gather and make much ado over.

So I keep track of myself and my life in non-burdensome and manageable formats like lists, in bursts on scraps of paper or sticky notes where I just want to think about what I’m doing or what I plan to do.  There’s not one book that holds all of my information. But there are a few notebooks and journals scattered about in my various bags, and now a bunch of electronic locations that hold information about where I’m going and how I’m getting there.

Perhaps not ironically for one trained as a lawyer, the greatest value in the information I keep has become its use as proof of what has happened.  Why do I need proof?  Well, one of the less fun habits resulting from my version of depression is catastrophization, which I’ve written about here before.

Catastrophizing is an irrational thought a lot of us have in believing that something is far worse than it actually is. Catastrophizing can generally can take two different forms: making a catastrophe out of a current situation, and imagining making a catastrophe out of a future situation.

On a day I’m feeling depressed, I have trouble remembering times I haven’t been depressed. On a day I’m feeling depressed, I can only remember being depressed and I can only foresee an entire lifetime of depression. So one day of feeling bad instantly becomes a lifetime of hell.

Luckily, I document my decent and good days now.  I take pictures and write notes to myself describing what my brain says on days I’m feeling well.  I borrowed the practice from a therapist who kept reading my own earlier statements to me when trying to prove to me I had felt well previously.  It occurred to me that I could do what she did for me, a practice that was proving invaluable. I could show myself the truth about a prior time even if I couldn’t readily remember it or feel it.

I also document on my bad days too now. I document so that I can be reminded that many bad days are not as bad as I recall or fear. Some bad days are actually days when bad things happen and I end up handling those things really well, especially for someone deficient in Vitamin D.

Try it. Keep track of information about yourself and your day that you think might be helpful later in the week. Develop a dialogue with yourself. Use today’s experience to shape a better tomorrow.

And if something works, remember to document it.

xoxo, d

If you had it, you can have it again.
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Has your joy been sparked?

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I bought The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō.  I was curious to see what all the talk was about.  I’m always in the market for an easy way to get an emotional lift, especially if it comes with a cleaner place.

I wanted to spark my joy, assuming my joy could be sparked.

Tapping into joy is something I have to practice when I can.  That might sound ridiculous, but my broken brain is used to tapping into pain and now it automatically chooses pain even when it doesn’t need to.  The rest of the time, even when it taps into something positive, like joy, my brain has the habit of twisting and torturing the joy into something negative, just out of habit.

So over the years, not surprisingly, almost everything in my life has become associated with pain.  Now I’m working hard to break those associations and build new, more positive and realistic associations.

So I bought Marie Kondo’s book, totally ready to clean up.  I hoped for a clean house and then a clean car.  And I hoped my joy would be sparked quickly.

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Spoiler alert caveat: I feel like I’m a really bad writer for not being able to build up the suspense more, but maybe I’m just a decent writer with a bad subject (i.e., me).

Actual spoiler: Everything about Kondo’s book drove me nuts, including the fact that I hadn’t figured out how to make a billion bucks on a book about tidying up. Every mention of her KonMarie Method made me feel like I was getting taken.

But my goal had been to clean up and feel good, and tons of people were responding favorably to her, so I tried to ignore my bad attitude and focus on her apparently useful advice.

When reading the book failed to move me, I sought a positive connection with the neat freak via YouTube. I watched her visit people who had clutter situations they wanted addressed.

But watching Marie Kondo in real life (i.e., video) was even harder. Everything about her was so streamlined and simplified. And tiny.

She was tiny. And perfect looking. And simple.

And she wasn’t just a giver of advice or the master of a novel approach. She was a lifestyle. She was a brand.  She was the Ralph Lauren of organization.

And it would take an awful lot of “tidying” to make my life look like hers.

I gave up on finding joy once I realized I was happier watching Beverly Hills 90210 than I was watching or reading Marie Kondo.

I gave up on finding joy and chalked up my experience to just another mission for finding material.

Because when you write a cartoon, nothing goes to waste. Every scrap can be turned into something viable, whether or not it’s supposed to be funny.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to hold each of my items in my hands to determine which ones spark joy.  Maybe one day that process will lead me to clearing out my closets and drawers and enjoying a more minimal existence.

For now, though, I’m not ready to hold each object in my hands and experience the emotional connection. My brain isn’t good enough yet at discerning emotions to play that game.

For now, I can follow a simple rule like “if you haven’t worn it in more than ten years, donate it to charity.”

Even better, I can watch 90210 while putting donation clothes into piles.

xoxo, d

May your joy be sparked.
Daily inspiration at GoComics/ReplyAll

The Importance of Hope

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I try not to think about how much of my life has been focused on my brain trying to kill me.

It’s depressing to think about the waste of years.

It’s been decades of my brain urging me to do destructive things to myself and me trying to hang in there because hanging in there is what we’re supposed to do.

The problem with hanging in is that it becomes more and more exhausting as time goes on.  The strength you relied on in your early years just isn’t reliable decades later.

It gets harder to hang in and even harder to want to. (more…)

Reach In.

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Don’t expect the person who is suffering to reach out for help. Swoop in to check up on the person who is suffering.

Be mindful of their privacy and respectful of their boundaries, but make your availability known to them.

Offer your shoulder, your time, your attention, your company, your dog, your blanket, your sofa, your snacks.

By the time a person in pain is too desperate to reach out, don’t stand on ceremony, manners or what if’s.

Reach in.

xoxo, d

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The Problem with Depression: Again. And again.

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I was on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional from DC  to Baltimore when I got the alert that Kate Spade had ended her life.  I couldn’t believe it and I desperately searched the internet for posts that proved the news a hoax.

But it wasn’t a hoax and the horrible news was confirmed immediately by credible sources.

I texted my sister-in-law.

Kate Spade killed herself.”

Knowing she would be pressed for the best way to respond, I added “I can’t un-know that.”

Kakki, the sister I had always wanted, texted back.

oh no,” she said.

(more…)