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Success is not the answer


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As I read through the heartfelt posts on this blog, I see a recurring theme: I feel like a loser because I have never succeeded.  I feel resentful because no one respects my opinion.  I feel lonely because I am ignored.  I feel unloved because no one loves me. I am here to tell you that these thoughts, like all the other ones depression puts in our minds, are lies, damned lies.

I want to share a little bit of why I know that depression is lying to everyone who thinks this way.  The following may come across as a humblebrag, but I assure you it is not. It is me sharing personal experience.

1. I feel like a loser because I have never succeeded. No. That is a lie. I have had more success in life than any one man deserves. I was the first in my school to get a perfect SAT score. I sailed through an Ivy medical school on a scholarship. By the age of 28, I was Chief Surgeon in a department of a very large and respected regional medical center. By 30, I was on the board of the hospital, making me my bosses' bosses' boss. I got called to the state Capitol and even the U.S. Congress to give expert testimony. I went on television shows. I did medical consulting for Hollywood scriptwriters. Did I feel successful? Never for one minute. I never felt like I fit in, that I deserved any of it. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, certain that everyone could tell I was pretending. Success is not the answer.

2. I feel resentful because no one respects my opinion. People sought out my opinion. I published a book that was reviewed by The New York Times. I went on NPR and CNN to be interviewed for my book. I got offered research fellowships at respected universities, keynote speeches at symposiums. Still I felt a weight in my chest day and night. I was never happy for colleagues when they succeeded, even though I brought the cake and the piñata.

3. I feel lonely because I am ignored. You do not want the spotlight, trust me. Not when you deal with our pain. Stage lights are hot. Media is pushy and nosy. The higher up the tree the monkey goes, the more his bottom shows. The pressure to perform and smile is a crushing burden. Through it all, I felt alone and adrift. I felt no one understood what made me tick. I felt all the attention came from people who just wanted something from me. I started turning down requests to give commencement speeches because I felt like an almighty fraud. What did I have to say to those kids? I am nobody. I got handed life on easy mode. I happen to be gifted with words, gifted with academics, and tolerably good looking. I'm not a god. Being treated like one is a sugar rush that leaves you hungry.

4. I feel unloved because no one loves me. That could be true. Or it could just be a feeling. I have a wife who loves me, friends who went to bat for me and were there for me when the guys came with the white jackets. People I barely knew showed up to help my wife and the kids. I never felt loved, but I was and am. This last point is one I want to hammer home the most: Just because you feel unloved does not mean you are. Lots of people are unloved. If you are one of them, there is no judgment here. But maybe you're overlooking something. Look again.

I walked away from the big city, the bright lights, all of it. I am putting the pieces back together in a small private practice. I am lucky that even after all of what happened, I have options. I recognize that. Don't cite privilege to me. That has nothing to do with the main point. The main point is that your depression is lying to you. Your depression is not because of anything. It is a lying liar that lies and lies and lies some more. Call your depression out on its lies. 

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I won't claim to know everything about depression.  But, it does seem to mean different things to different people.  I  know many that are "successful" by various popular measures, but still 'depressed'.   Those are two different things.

Good to be reminded about that occasionally for those that have feelings that are not reflective of (some sort of) reality. (and now I am off to spiral on the definition of "reality"...)

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Old Man Depression (Name it / Tame it) does lie to us bigly.

We all have a vast metaphorical cave within.

The trick is to put the emptiness to use and not get lost and trapped inside ourselves.

My approach is to invoke clever and powerful metaphors to counteract the debilitating effects of depression.

Clever and powerful metaphors become: CLEVERFUL MEDaphors.

We are never helpless confronting Old Man Depression.

Oscar

 

 

 

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I think that is a very good point.

There is a theory [or hypothesis] that many cases of chronic low mood are related to an attitude of perfectionism. 

Perfection has many meanings but one sense of the term involves looking at oneself, others and things in general from the point of view of:  "could be better, but isn't better.  I could be better but am not.  You, he, she, we, they... could be better but are not."  Things and events in life could be better but are not better.

This attitude has certain good points to it.  Without it, we probably wouldn't have cars, trains, planes, refrigerators, electric lights, refrigeration, heating and air conditioning, medical cures and so on.  In a way, people have to look at things and think:  "this could be better, but isn't" and it sometimes motivates people to make things better. 

But perfectionism in this sense can have a dark side too.  For some people, if things cannot be perfect, then it can seem that any effort is pointless.

There is another way of looking at things:  "could be worse, but isn't worse."  That is an attitude towards self, others and things in general which tends to engender feelings of gratitude, appreciation and a sense of feeling blessed or lucky.

Some psychologists have suggested that some level of perfectionism is sort of hard wired into human beings.  We as a species are the species that is dissatisfied with the status quo and want to change it for the better. 

There is a theory [or hypothesis] that excessive exposure to the stress hormones damages the human brain in those genetically predisposed to this. 

Stress and the stress hormones might be activated by perfectionism.  No human being is an infinite Being.  No human being is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful and all-perfect.  If a human being aims to be this, it might create a great deal of internal stress.

Since perfectionism can drive a person to try to excel at something and be successful, it might create a lot of stress in that person.  For a true perfectionist, good is never good enough:  one should and must always be more and do more.  It is as if one is running a race and every time one reaches the finish line, the finish line is moved farther away.  "Success" which is seen as producing happiness only leads to more stress since one can never rest it if one is a perfectionist.  It can be very draining and demoralizing. 

There is a also a psychological theory [or hypothesis]  that many people were raised to think that peace and enjoyment are morally dubious.  For those so raised, one should never be too satisfied or happy or at peace.  One "should" be perpetually dissatisfied.  To be satisfied is looked at as somehow kind of immoral.  Momentary happiness and peace are okay.  But long term happiness and peace are somehow looked at as of questionable morality.

There are people who by temperament tend to look at look at themselves, others and the world with the attitude of "could be worse, but isn't worse."  These people seem generally happier and more peace than perfectionists, all other things considered equal. 

For perfectionists, it is hypothesized, one can never do enough or be enough.  One is only as good as the last good thing one has done. 

Another aspect of perfectionism is that it sees things in a black and white way ignores grey areas.  If something isn't perfect, it is somehow bad. 

This way of looking at things tends to blur the continuum of good and evil.  For example, a couple of men in the last 100 years are responsible for the destruction of tens of millions of men, women and children through campaigns of genocide and forced starvation. 

Most people are not responsible for the destruction of tens of millions of people.  But for a perfectionist, the only good is the perfect.  A person will feel worthless, not for destroying tens of millions of lives, but for failure to get good grades in school or something that is minor in comparison to genocide. 

At least that is what the theory is.

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It's like having the voice of an abusive parent in our heads all the time.  I fully believe that us and this whole universe is a science experiment.  There are so many things that are so amazing that it makes me speechless but also a lot of things that make me think what the hell was the thought process here?  The question to why would the creator want to put an abusive voice in our heads when we're struggling can start a conversation that could last the rest of our lives.  If there is a god or a scientist responsible for all of this.  I hope I get a chance to have a very long conversation with this being.

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11 hours ago, sober4life said:

It's like having the voice of an abusive parent in our heads all the time.  I fully believe that us and this whole universe is a science experiment.  There are so many things that are so amazing that it makes me speechless but also a lot of things that make me think what the hell was the thought process here?  The question to why would the creator want to put an abusive voice in our heads when we're struggling can start a conversation that could last the rest of our lives.  If there is a god or a scientist responsible for all of this.  I hope I get a chance to have a very long conversation with this being.

I can relate to this. At some point in our lives we are abused either by parents or society or bullied and ostracized by peers.

What happens later on is a panopticon, the jailhouse light in the middle of a prison. That light is there so people don't know if a guard is actually present or not.

Once society breaks people it actually puts almost no effort in afterwards. Ultimately we become that panopticon repeating the abuse and doubts we hear from others who have since long moved on.

So yes I agree with the original poster that we are told lies and as dictactors know the more you tell lies people start to believe them.

It is difficult for people to stop believing the lies. Usually only people who are more privileged and educated figure it out.

Where I disagree is that success is actually an answer. Note how you use your own successes to counteract the voice in your head. You are relying on success to make yourself credible yet you tell others it is not the answer. Everyone wants to see success and prosper.

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5 hours ago, Evergreenforst4 said:

Where I disagree is that success is actually an answer. Note how you use your own successes to counteract the voice in your head. You are relying on success to make yourself credible yet you tell others it is not the answer. Everyone wants to see success and prosper.

I don’t think he is using his successes to counteract the voices in his head. I think he is saying that he still feels depressed despite how much success he has in life. People may be successful and prosper and still feel depressed. We may work hard to reach success and yet feel depressed. Don’t wish for success to come, because we probably don’t need success to be happy. What do we need then? We gotto figure out what’s the answer, and the answer is not success. 

There are people who fail but can be happy if they learn from it. There are people who remain calm and peaceful despite people disagreeing with them. There are people who are ignored and yet happy to be living in their own fantasy of games n books. Some may be unloved and still be happy to do what they want on their own. But I’m not one of them I guess. I have yet to know how to react to failures in life. Even though I know failures are important. 

But of course the point is old man depression is lying to us. We tend to forget that. 

Edited by Depressedgurl007
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My therapist introduced me to the concept of catastrophizing, an isolated incident being extrapolated into something much bigger. It's really easy for "My parent doesn't respect my opinion" or "my coworker doesnt respect my opinion" to turn into "I feel resentful because nobody respects my opinion." And I think that can be the case for everything listed. Just know, whoever's reading this, that these things dont define you or your worth.

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Depression is different for everyone, everyone lives in their own world with their own unique thoughts. in my case for example, what you said would be wrong, if i had the success that you did and the economic situation that you are in, that would relieve most of my depression if not all. There would be some balance in my life then.

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I supposedly reached a high level position at my former employer. I couldn't understand why, knowing all of my failures. I thought I was faking it the whole time and that everyone else there knew it. About my only skill was the ability to bullsh*t well. Maybe that's all it takes, I dunno. I did make it for 32.5 years at the same employer so I suppose that's an accomplishment.

Right now, I don't think I could sell lemonade on a street corner.

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