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Omega Man

The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive (part 2 here) documentary by Stephen Fry is pretty interesting, especially for us self-diagnosed types not receiving professional help. Fry himself is in that same situation, and the documentary is his journey of familiarizing himself with others who suffer and the treatment options available. I found myself becoming more comfortable with the idea of seeking treatment as Fry himself does over the course of the film.

I also found this interview video with Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison interesting as well. A leading psychiatrist in the study of bi-polar disorders, she herself suffered from depression and was not seeking professional help! She feared the professional backlash, and made an interesting comment that self-reliant people tend to resist the idea of seeking help because they are so used to doing things for themselves. I find myself in that same situation.

Omega Man

I discovered the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast via comedian Rob Delaney who has posted some frank thoughts about his depression. Delaney mentioned the podcast as he was interviewed on a recent episode. They treat depression and other forms of mental illness with a bit of humor, but this is coming from people who themselves suffer, struggle and perservere with depression so it's not in the sense of making fun of depression but coping with it. I've only listened to the Rob Delany episode so far, but I really enjoyed the discussion and openness of the host and guest.

Omega Man

I've been listing to "The Mindful Way Through Depression" recently. I've yet to put the techniques into practice as the authors recommend not doing so while dealing with a current bout of depression. I decided instead to listen to the audiobook a few times to absorb the content. I've listened through once already while working.

The authors have an interesting approach to depression which focuses on eliminating rumination through mindfulness meditation. Coincidentally, I started meditating when I began my exercise routine back in April 2012 as part of my "depression busting" regimen based on the book "Up Without Meds" and other reading which all pointed to exercise, sleep, diet, and socialization as key areas to focus on. Most books and articles recommended meditation as an optional but effective technique.

"The Mindful Way Through Depression" focuses specifically on the meditation aspect, with concrete techniques to use. The chapters prior to the actual techniques provide some interesting, helpful and reassuring concepts to help us sufferers.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book so far:

"Our bodies function as highly-sensitive emotion detectors. They are giving us moment-to-moment readouts of our emotional state. Of course, most of us aren't paying attention—we're too busy thinking."

"We ruminate when we are feeling low because we believe it will reveal a way to solve our problems… [but] our ability to solve problems actually deteriorates markedly during rumination."

"[Rumination] is a heroic attempt to solve a problem that it is just not capable of solving."

The authors also bring up the idea that depressive thoughts are the same for everybody, so it's extremely unlikely that those thoughts are specific to only you. Being an overly logic person, this kind of idea is a very powerful mental tool to help when ruminating.

The book comes from the point of view that medications are effective in dealing with severe onset of depression, but not in managing depression in an ongoing manner. The authors state that recurrence of depression is linked to earlier mental or emotional states of unhappiness (or depression) that we do not realize we are linking to the current bout of depression. In other words, nothing in our current life may be triggering the depression, but the ruminating mind is linking (or looking for) a cause or connection when in fact it may just be linked to a memory or past experience of deep unhappiness or depression.

The mindfulness meditation is therefore a technique to attempt to break this linking, by short-circuiting the ruminating mind. The authors believe the ruminating mind, which uses the problem-solving areas of the brain, can actually make things worse and therefore the meditation focuses on experiencing the present, untainted by time. By time, they are referring to dwelling on the past, or anxiety over the future.

In a sense, this approach is similar to that of Eckhart Tolle in "The Power of Now", who asks readers to focus on "The Now" or the present moment. Tolle's descriptions of the approach and techniques seem to be very similar to that of mindfulness meditation — a connection I sensed immediately when first reading TPON many months ago.

I am going to give "The Mindful Way Through Depression" a few more listens while I work through my current depression, and hope to put the techniques into practice when I am in the proper mental state to do so. In the meantime, I do enjoy having an audio version of a depression help book to play in the background to help ease the rumination the authors speak of.

Omega Man

Everything you read about depression stresses exercise as a main component to keeping it in check. One of the ideas behind it is that depression can be triggered by stress, and without the proper chemical signal (adrenaline from elevated heart rate), the body stays in stress mode, and the depression sets in. Our bodies are evolved to expect stress from a life-threatening event like being attacked, and it "expects" a resolution such as running away at full speed.

A good way to establish the habit (as I did 4 months ago) is to start small and easy, like taking a short walk. Forget the heart rate for now, get into the habit of doing it daily first. You'll find that it helps with some other things, like needing to plan your day around it, which means having some small goals to set/reach. Do it every day. Make it happen even if you don't want to. You may find as I have that you start looking forward to the walks.

I decided to do some other small exercises as well, Monday/Wednesday/Friday I do one set of pushups, squats and planks. They require no equipment and will take you less than 15 minutes to accomplish. I chose these based on some Google searches for the best all-around exercise to do. I also wanted some upper body exercise to even things out, and for some visual feedback/motivation for looking better. Also, squats are supposedly good for producing testosterone, which can be beneficial to men especially as they age as low levels of testosterone are thought to perhaps be a depression trigger.

The trick is to set small, easy goals to help start a habit and get some easy motivation. Once you get in the habit, it should start to be self-propelled and from there you can start upping the intensity for the aerobic workout for the depression benefits.

I sometimes substitute a bike ride for a walk, but I've really grown fond of the walking. Something about moving at the rate your body can move itself under its own power seems to have this way of putting you into a "zone" that the other activities I am doing don't seem to have the power to generate.

Another big benefit from walking is being outside in the sun, which is another depression trigger (lack of sunlight). I like to also listen to motivational/meditation audiobooks while walking to help me clear the mind and stay in that positive mindset.

Give just a 1 mile walk every day for 30 days a go. By the end I bet you are hooked!

Omega Man

Ive been trying to create a short, easy to read essay explaining what it feels like to experience depression for those who have not experienced it. Consider this a work in progress, and all comments or suggestions to improve it are welcome!

Depression 101

- clinical depression is an illness or a disease, not being bummed out. Think of it like a flu or cancer of the mind.

- depression may or may not be triggered by external events (or may be cumulative or subconscious if external). But there is no way to "snap out of it"

- one major symptom is an absence of pleasure in anything, while being conscious at the same time that your ability to feel joy is gone. This can lead to one acting aloof/indifferent, sad or angry. These are coping mechanisms and are not consciously done.

- due to the inability to experience joy or happiness, it is extremely difficult to be around other people, especially when they are having fun. It makes your inability to have fun even more prominent in your mind.

- one tends to ruminate or over-think things, and the focus tends to be on the negatives

- one tends to lose the ability to find meaning in anything; things need a "reason", and these are impossible to find. One tends to think "what's the point?" quite a bit, and about everything.

- one tends to withdraw from others to avoid bringing them down, or being around people who just don't understand what you are going through as it amplifies the aloneness one is feeling (and consumed by). It just seems easier to avoid things, people and social situations. Paradoxically, this withdrawing may be part of the cumulative trigger that can lead to an episode of depression.

- episodes can last for weeks or months (or longer); over time, a depressed person will have no choice but to function as best as possible and put on the best "happy face" possible when around others. This can lead to people thinking "things are OK", but the depressed person's mood will be stained by the depression, resting in them seeming distant/aloof, being a bummer to be around, angry or negative even. The person probably isn't even aware that it has affecteded their personality.

- depression affects the motivational centers of the brain, making any sort of action seem like an impossible goal. This includes actions as simple as getting out of bed or leaving the house for a walk.

Omega Man

Just listing some resources I've given a chance.

- quit smoking after 20 years of being a smoker

- exercise: daily walk or bike ride; Mon/Wed/Fri pushups, squats and planks.

- eating more healthily: less processed foods (including breads), more salads and meats

- supplements: Omega-3, chromium, multivitamin; recently upped D3, added vitamin K; garlic extract, calcium, magnesium.

- daily 15 minute mindfulness meditation.

- longer and more consistent sleep at regular schedule; tried sleeping at regular times but that hasn't gone too well (I'm a night owl).

- explaining the depths of clinical depression to close friends

- socializing more when depressed, usually one-on-one with close friends or family

- working on writing down my thoughts during depression on this blog, site as well as privately

Books:

- Up Without Meds

- The Depression Cure

So far I have NOT talked to a professional about any of this. I'm going on 4 years of being self-diagnosed with clinical depression, but the more I learn about it, the more I believe I've suffered from this much longer.

Since I've not spoken with a professional, I've not taken any prescription drugs for any of this either. I do not have a great fear (but some concern) with taking medications, but I do have a more obvious fear about going to a doctor for this and having to admit I need help. It scares me to think I do not have control of my own mind, and contradicts a lifelong "I can do it all myself" attitude I've cultivated for quite some time.

Interestingly, I feel the "DIY" mindset could be partially caused by the depression slowly widening the gaps in my relationships to the point where it became a necessity to some degree. Just thinking out loud here.

Omega Man

There's no doubt that I experienced a drastic insomnia situation right before my last onset of depression. I was heavily researching RV options with an eye to try living full time on the road since my work is Internet based.

I've read that even the stress of moving plans can bring about depression, so the racing mind to read up on RVs could have instigated the insomnia.

The worst part is that this has set off a chain reaction that has detached me from a proper sleep cycle, my exercise and meditation routines, and my motivations to eat properly. It's almost like I am subconsciously doing all the things the research says NOT to do, in some sort of rebellion from accepting the reality that I've not found a way to keep it at bay forever (if at all).

What a strange, vicious circle it all is.

Omega Man

I've been trying to up my socialization lately to combat a recent bout of depression after a 6-month span of feeling generally good. Last night I was at a small gathering of friends on a deck having some beers.

When I arrived, two separate people commented on how I brought energy levels down. One said I had a "calming effect" on one of our more hyperactive friends; another said it was "Zen-like", but I laughed and said something along the lines of "that's one way to put it".

Nobody said anything explicitly negative, but I found it interesting that it was so palpable that two people commented on it. I can only imagine the effect I have when I'm really down. Last night was more of an empty/hopeless down than an angry/negative down. I always do my best to put a positive spin on my personality when socializing.

Omega Man

I've realized I need to explain to friends and family exactly what has been going on inside me, so they don't take my anger and withdrawing as a sign that I am pushing them away. I'm fortunate to have friends and family that are open and helpful in this regard.

It's been a mixed bag of results though. Most people seem to have this knee-jerk reaction with a magical "solution". Despite limited or no research or experience on the subject. Others seem to have a genuine care, but don't seem to be able to understand how deeply oppressive the situation is for me. And how much help I need. It's made me shy away from confiding in further people as I feel like it goes in one (understanding) ear, but out the other.

This leads to a vicious cycle of believing that you are even more alone than you were before, since one of the untried outlets you just used isn't doing the trick. Perhaps that is why I held off telling people? Hoping to save that so as not to "cry wolf"?

While I do not regret telling people to what depths the emptiness of my depression goes when it's bad, part of me feels it wasn't very productive. And perhaps counterproductive. Even one friend who I believe understands actual clinical depression (and suffers from it) seems too self-medicated with alcohol to be of any help. The others don't seem to really grasp the hopelessness I experience. And the more I try to explain the mental state, the more I feel I am just dragging them into a hole they would rather not go down.

I am glad that I've done my best to explain what goes on. I don't think the people who've never experienced depression can really understand what is going on, but hopefully it will help others understand when talk come around to "man, he's been kind of a drag to be around".

Omega Man

Heightened Senses

I am about a week in to an episode of depression after about 6-7 months of being mostly depression-free. I quit smoking, started exercising and walking every day. These seemed to hold off the depression. A recent bout of insomnia which screwed up my sleep schedule preceded the recent depression episode, which has been quite intense at times.

One odd side effect I've noticed lately: my senses all feel heightened. Sights, smells and sounds all seem more intense. I've also noticed that the left-front of my brain feels both "hot" and slightly painful. It actually drifts between the two sensations. There also feels like there's some pressure in that area.

I've recently learned what and where the amygdala is, and it's right in that area of the head/brain. Just noting all this for future reference.

Omega Man

I recently got sideswiped by a bout of depression (which I am currently dealing with) after making some lifestyle changes as recommended in the excellent book Up Without Meds. I had a good 6-7 month period where things seemed to be heading in a positive direction. After a weekend where insomnia screwed up my sleep schedule, and during the same time I was looking into getting an RV to work from the road and explore the USA, the depression came back.

I kind of lashed out at a good friend, and part of my rant included my observation that friends were pulling away from me lately. His reply was that people were talking about how I was a drag to be around. Which I could totally agree with. It got me thinking that I needed to let people close to me know exactly what was going on. I wrote the following letter, which as of this blog post I've not sent to anyone but I wanted to share it here.

I think it needs more work, especially explaining the inner experience of depression. Maybe readers will have some suggestions.

I'm Not Me: An Open Letter to My Friends About My Clinical Depression

I know I've become a drag to be around lately. Longer than just "lately". Many of you might think I'm becoming more of a jerk, which is probably true (but not intentional). Before I lose ties with more people, it's time to get something out in the open: I have clinical depression, and in short, it changes my personality for the worse. And trust me, it's way worse on the inside because there's no escaping this when it happens.

Clinical depression is a disease. It's not something you snap out of. The triggers can be external, but are not necessarily so. It's a poor term since it can be misconstrued with general "depression"

Omega Man

This weekend was the culmination of a rough two weeks for me. I have been feeling very isolated and alone, despite having good friends and social gatherings which I thought would hopefully get me out of my funk. It required a bit of effort to attend these functions, however I started out each one having a good time, in fact a great time despite my reservations.

That didn't last long though. Even when out among friends I began sinking back into myself, feeling disconnected and alone. Seeing everyone together, and someone to share it with was just too much for me. Being around people having a good time wasn't infectious, it only served to magnify the isolation I struggled with.

These recent bouts thankfully haven't been as pronounced as the period which first led me to this support site, and in fact I have been doing quite well overall, if not 100%. But lately I feel myself sinking back into it.

Mostly my thoughts, or the focus or analysis of my thoughts is on relationships around me. I keep pinning my pain to these toughts, but I have no idea of they truly are the source of all of this. My thoughts revolve around friends who seem on the surface happy, and with someone they care about. I feel as if I can't even meet someone anymore, and as if my life is just slowly fading away. It feels as if it has no meaning without someone to share it with or someone for which I can do what I do.

Again, I go back to my recurring theme: my business is doing well and I do what I love for work. The success doesn't seem to bring the peace or satisfaction I once thought it would, and in recent years I have learned that in fact success can lead to depression when you no long have that goal to work towards, which you once had.

Everyone around me shares with others things I do not have in common with either: new houses, children, new careers. I almost feel like I sacrificed one sort of happiness to follow the path I have to be self-sufficient and successful at work. Seeing other good friends do the same yet also having founf success in their personal life is all the more painful.

I feel as if I am just waking up and seeing the plan, the pattern that everyone around me has been working on for the past 15 years of their lives. And I am only just realizing this while they are already moving on the the second phase of those lives they've been building.

Once I used to revel and take pride in my independence, lately it feels like a hindrance and an anchor.

I also fear these missing items, which I currently hinge my emptiness on, are not in fact that which drags me down. I fear settling into something out of haste to try and fill these voids only to find myself embroiled in further responsibilities and obligations which will spiral me even further.

I see the shiny surface of relationships around me, yet fail to consider the freedoms which I may have to sacrifice and I don't know if I am ready to let those go. Yet I feel myself squandering those freedoms to wallow in self-pity and worry.

there is something eating away at me, nagging. It's almost feels like jealousy at times when I see people whose lives are wrapped up in the very things I silently profess to myself I want nothing do with.

I feel locked in a town with no peers, yet afraid to strike out and try something

Omega Man

I can't find my old posts on here (it's been a while since I have been active on the forums, see below) and when I saw the blogs option, I thought maybe this might be a better place to get my thoughts out. I don't like the idea of not keeping up with forum threads, I feel like a jerk when that happens.

I do want to thank all the kind souls here who did help me back when I was more active on the forums, I can't begin to explain how much this site has helped me. But I also had to step away. Part of me felt myself slipping into this depression lull just by frequenting the forums, dwelling on the depression instead of working through it. Whatever it was I just felt like I needed to be away from the forums for a while.

I did start taking Omega-3 supplements as well as B-complex vitamins (in addition to the vitamins I was already taking). It really seems to have been helping, but I also don't know if maybe I just happened to be on a coincidental upswing at the time. I do know that for the most part I have been feeling much, much better.

I still have moments where things aren't so great, times when I feel like I may be slipping back into the depression. But usually I am able to work myself through them. Lately things have felt precariously balanced, and I have been thinking about these forums a lot, which prompted me to come back and explore.

Even as I type this I worry that just being here and spending time, giving this energy and thoughts to the depression is giving it power, and it worries me.

One thing I did do from the suggestions of others here was to talk to my family and close friends about my potential depression (I have never been formally diagnosed, nor have I gotten any professional help or consultation about my potential depression). Talking with others helps a lot.

As I mentioned in the title, mostly I just wanted to get some thoughts off my mind. I have been down lately, though not down into the debilitating hell of a full-blown episode, but enough to worry me.

I am staying on track with the Omega-3 and the supplements, and I can only hope that those have been helping me. I am very scared to get help (as bizarre as that may sound) even though I am sure it would be a good idea. I have this stubborn notion that I can "fix myself".

Lately I have been consumed with thoughts about remaining single the rest of my life. Working for myself, I rarely get out and therefore rarely meet new people. Most my friends are married or in serious relationships, and those that aren't looking to change their lives, or at least not motivated to go out and make changes in their lives. I feel like the limited social outlets I do have is so severely limited as far as meeting new people that I tend to be less than excited about those opportunities to get out and socialize -- I feel like all it does is reinforce my "singleness", and is a hindrance to going out somewhere where I might have opportunities to meet new single people.

I feel like I am rambling a bit here, but then again this was kind of a "get it off my chest" post anyways. Still, I think I am going to wrap this one up for now and try to keep single topics for future posts. From my experience with my work blog, I know that it takes some time getting started and finding your focus on a new blog, so I am hoping that over time this will be a valuable resource to both myself and my reader.