Two Wolves

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

source

It has been a while since I have posted here and that is a mistake. If one is to overcome their depression than they must become a creature of habit. It is a fight fire with fire situation in that depression uses the same tactics. It too turns into creatures of habits in order to ensnare us into a cyclical pattern of behavior that sends us deeper into despair.

Sure depression is a hellishly specified illness tailor made for our own unique torment, but the overall themes and symptoms are all the same. Intrusive thoughts of low self worth and fear, suicidal ideation, poor sleeping habits (too much or too little), eating too much crap or not at all, cutting your self off from friends and family, and the like.

As a result, the logical step to break this cycle is to do the opposite of your symptoms. That will help to break the cycle, or at least slow the descent. Then, if you are able to build on the steps you have made you will begin to lift through the haze of depression. If you are able to develop these steps of self care, such as meditation, exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol etc., and turn them into a daily routine, you will indeed emerge from despair.

I stop here, only because this is where I am at currently. I am taking many great steps towards recovery, but the harsh reality is that it only takes one small misstep to fall back under. Then you find yourself at the bottom of the hill, only to have to start putting one foot in front of the other yet again. It can be exhausting and downright demoralizing. It is truly unique to mental health issues that such small deviations can have such disastrous results.

To be fair though, I haven’t been perfect and I am yet to take all the steps. So I won’t give up yet. I have to give me a chance.

We must remember that we are in there and we are worth fighting for. Being depressed long enough encourages us to see ourselves as the depression. This is perhaps the most rotten trick of all. We have to remember that not only are we not our illness, but we are in fact stronger than it. We must adapt a warrior mentality, as for many of us this is a life and death battle. This is not a fucking joke. We have to become sons of Sparta, Maori Warriors, become Genghis Fucking Khan and not stop fighting for the rest of our lives.

I leave you with a quote said to have originated from the Cherokee:

 One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between 2 “wolves” inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Remember that you are the good wolf.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Horses Mouth

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Source

I was always stood in ardent opposition of cliches. I’m not sure why really. I suppose it was my streak of youthful rebellion seeing as they are often touchstones for the older generation. Or maybe, and perhaps more likely, it was due to the fact that the time when one hears a cliche is most often at the time when it is the least helpful; usually when you just fucked up somehow like when you put your foot in your mouth, get proven wrong, and some bastard pulls out “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover you know!”

Yeah, thanks for that.

Sure the definition of cliche is an phrase that is overused and lacks original thought. But hey, the Beatles were right when they said “Nothing you can say, but you can learn to play the game.” Generations upon generations of people have come before us and struggled with, rebelled against, and endured the human condition. Sure times have changed over and over, and never more quickly than the present, however, the troubles that we all share are still the same. As a result, these overused sayings have been long established, but are still relevant nonetheless. Anything else would we a watered down paraphrase.

So, I find myself discovering just how useful these phrases are in my own life and path to recovery from depression. (A nice blog about their usefulness here) It is a humbling position to be in. However, the choice is between holding onto the stubborn misconceptions of my youth, or embracing the change before me. It is hard because I really tied my the image of myself in who I was once trying to be. An unrealistic picture of a man.

The truth is, living in the past, holding onto these unattainable standards and expectations, will eventually kill me. That is how mental illness is a lethal disease. I endure pain that causes me to contemplate suicide or self medicate. I can stick to my guns and keel over from a heart attack at 54, or I can get over myself and stick around to watch my children grow, teach them about balance, contribute to the world, and chase my dreams, even if I don’t catch them.

Still, I promise not to sit back and watch as someone let’s go of a good thing and then quip, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” I’m not that much of an asshole.

Shut up & Drive

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Source

It’s been a while since I posted here and that’s not right. In past I have used this blog as a place to give air to my despair and frustrations and, although mainly for my own catharsis, for anyone who may find some common ground amid the ramblings.

Lately, however, my mood has been ‘trending’ upwards. So, I have avoided my usual haunts for fear of tearing any scabs that may be fighting to form. This is a mistake. What I should be doing is exactly what I HAD been doing to get me where I am right now, and KEEP doing it to hopefully improve further.

This is crucial. My mood is far from perfect, or even really good for that matter, however, I am not wallowing in a pit of self loathing and darkness. So, I have to keep moving.

My progress is not due to any single instance or factor. It is cumulative. It is the result of therapy, vitamins, meds, exercise, writing, avoiding alcohol and drugs, eating better, springtime sun, and meditation. It’s a lot of fucking work and it’s no fun to tell the truth. Still, it beats the hell out of wanting to walk in front of a train.

It is still a frustrating truth. I wish people would realize just how all encompassing this illness really is. It is not as simple as diagnose and follow a specific treatment. The treatment is literally everything. Your whole goddamn environment. You even have to heal your relationships in order to heal yourself. It’s, well,…….crazy.

I still have a ways to go. I need to chase my dreams with more fervor. I need to either change my job or learn to live with it somehow. I need to move to a place that reflects my values. I need to spend more time with friends. Some financial stability wouldn’t hurt either. (Anyone want to hire a novice writer??)

The first steps are important, and it is important to realize that I will most definitely stumble. That is why it is important to take as many steps as possible and get those lows as far away in my rear view mirror as I can.

Dribs, Drabs, Rock, and Roll

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Source

Sometimes I sit and daydream about what it’s like to feel normal again. Not happy, but simply average. To reach a place where sadness, irritability, disappointment, and anger still exist, but that they are placed within their proper context. Somewhere where despair doesn’t sit upon your chest waiting for your eyes to flutter in the morning so that it may be the first thing you see. Somewhere where my thoughts will be tied to my surroundings rather than black thoughts of abstract torment that creep into my mind unannounced.

I also wonder how it will happen for me, if it ever does that is. Will I wake up one morning, feeling rested and look forward to something in the day ahead rather than the end of it? Or does it come in dribs and drabs, with an hour of contentment here and there eventually stretching into an afternoon and then covering days, even weeks?

I’ll take it any way I can get it of course, I just want to know what I am looking for. Reason being, and I’m strangely hesitant to even discuss it, I felt pretty good this morning for a while. I was getting some chores done, listening to music and I found myself picking out the bass line of the song and remembering how much I liked it when I was a teenager. I then realized that I hadn’t appreciated anything that specific in God knows how long. I was probably high the last time I got into something so exact.

Usually I struggle just to admit that I should be happy that I am not ridden with Cancer or my family is all alive and well. Now I of course should be happy about those things, but my point was that I lacked both the imagination and the awareness to appreciate anything beyond the boilerplate fortunes that can be found in many lives. My depression chased me into the shadows and dulled my senses. Details such as birds chirping, a great song, or a kind stranger would never be able to pierce the fog of despair that separates me from the rest.

I admit I am still looking for something bigger than a warm smile to build on of course, perhaps selfishly so. I’d like a better job opportunity, an ease in financial burden, or a lucky break of any kind. Still though, even though I am reticent to view it as such, maybe this my luck break. A drib before a drab.

Thanks Geezer Butler

The Harm in Hope

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Source

I remember once when I was an actual starry eyed idealist. (I believe I still I am, somewhere, under the blackened crust, but I digress.) I mean if someone engaged me at the time I must have been a literal picture of the passionate liberal arts student. (How sickening) One time that encapsulates this for me was when I learned of Max Weber’The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 

If you’re looking a summary, you better ask Google, because it’s been some time since I’ve even looked in its direction. However, if my beleaguered memory serves me correctly, Mr. Weber put forth a theory in which he explained the birth of capitalism by creating a fictional character through which the work ethic and mindset necessary for such an economy to bear fruit. I was awestruck by the fact that Weber had the courage to just invent a character in order for his theory to work. The craziest part is that it works, and it is widely accepted that he’s not far off the mark.

Recently I was throwing around a little theory of my own. Now at this point I am fully aware that this is probably not original at all, but I am afraid to Google it and find out just how derivative I am and from what sources.

Anyway, my theory in a nutshell is that the baby boomer generation is complicit in the modern epidemic of mental illness. Most inquiries, as does the linked article, explain away the startling statistics as explainable by phenomena such as over diagnosis, gluttonous big pharma, or lessening stigma. To be sure, these factors and more are contributors. However, I have taken the audacious step of shadowing my sociological superior, Max Weber, and invent a stereotype of a baby boomer.

The concept of the ‘American Dream’ states hard work leads to social mobility and was first put forth in 1931 by historian James Truslow Adams. Now the baby boomer generation began in 1946, so this long accepted ethos, now named fifteen years prior, had time to really take hold in American society. So, the baby boomers were raised in this belief and fortunately for them, the theory did hold some water. Their generation enjoyed it’s formative years in a so called ‘golden age of capitalism.’ Thus they were able to enjoy some moving and shaking and often time, realize their dreams of prosperity and success. By the time of the economic downturn of the 70’s and 80’s, they were already established in their careers and comfortably criticizing and voting from a place of self interest.

The crux of my argument rests in what this ideal baby boomer told his or her children, and that is a message steeped in the beliefs of the American Dream. Of course this generation, Generation X , faced greater hardships than their parents. So, my theory contends that while they were spoon fed promises of dreams come true, they faced a much harsher reality and became disillusioned, apathetic, disconnected, self blaming, and, increasingly, mentally ill.

Everyone wants to have meaning in their lives. I am certainly struggling with this now. My struggle is marked with existential conflicts that could be solved through a discovery of self. This is not to say I need a six figure salary, rather, I need to find my life’s work.

That’s pretty hard in a world where both parents have to work to make ends meet. It is no wonder people wake to rue the day ahead.

As it Is

aaaaaa

Source

Well, I was going to write what could very well be an original theory today, but then my despair crept on me today. Now I can’t bring myself to do it justice, not can I fully remember what my alternative subject was going to be.

I hate to fucking admit it, but I’m worn down again. I shouldn’t even be writing this post. I should reserve myself to times when I can clearly communicate posts of at least some qualitative substance. However, I also do believe in the merit of going through the exercise. The ‘fake it until you make it’ theory I have so often encountered. It hasn’t paid off for me personally all that much but perhaps someone will find something useful in these ramblings.

One thing I find is that I often read well polished articles written by people who suffer from a mental illness of one type or another and I fail to find myself among their words. While it is a certainty that mental illness is a highly personalized form of suffering, I should be able to find some solace in their words. I suppose this is most likely due to the fact that they are writing from a place of some sort of recovery. I mean, if you are at the stage of the game where The fucking Huffington Post or The Walrus is carrying your piece, than you most likely have your shit together to at least some extent.

Therein lay the rub with mental illness. I mean, for me anyways, if you are in a better place, the darkness in me doesn’t allow me to embrace your words of advice. This has nothing to do with their quality whatsoever. The advice could be the best I have ever received. My thoughts however turn me against you. I write you off as some privileged asshole who got an unfair leg up in life somehow.

I am not proud of this. I mean what is the alternative? Reading the twisting and turning vitriol so often found in my posts? How is that helpful? The adage that misery loves company I suppose.

In my group therapy the other night, members of the group for some reason broke from the usual ‘check ins’ in which they give a cursory list of their last two weeks. Instead a few challenged the benefits of group therapy. Another touched on their existential psychic torments. This was so refreshing for me to hear. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t benefiting from hearing about their daily struggles, or that they too were benefiting from sharing their experiences. However, it was great to really pop the hood up on the whole mess and really look at the twisting mess of greasy steel and frayed wiring. Sure the footage of the meeting maybe shouldn’t be used as a teaching tool of any kind, but at least it was honest.

So here I am. Continuing it. I will keep trying to clean things up, I know. As much as I want to simply stop existing, something keeps swinging my feet out of bed each morning. My family I guess. I just long for some rest. However, that cannot be.

Any other ailment calls for rest and relaxation. Let your body fight what is ailing you. Mental illness? Not a chance. If I stop the forward momentum, if I pause at all to just be (meditation aside), I sink. My demons sense when I stop to rest. They choose then to pounce.

The Kim Kardashian Centre for Mental Health and Global Equality

aaaaa

Source

While it is generally accepted that depression shares some general symptomatic traits (fatigue, anxiety, hopelessness, etc.,) I am a firm believer that beyond that, it is an illness that is more aptly described as a tailor made torture chamber. For the bars that imprison the sufferer in the illness are custom made of their own thoughts, desires and fears.

My ruminations are made up of flashbacks of my own mistakes, snapshots of sad and happy times from my own life, and fears of things that lie in wait for me around the bend.

Sure, some may be silly fears or worries once they are exposed and examined, however the majority are existential in nature, or are unanswerable questions from my past. Due to this, my depression has a feeling of eternal condemnation. It is hard to look at the everyday minutiae of life and find any point to it, when you are replaying the times you have hurt your loved ones or wondering why people abuse their kids.

So, when a sufferer is stuck in this bottomless pit of despair, it is hard to stomach an offered escape via vitamins, sunlight, and exercise.

Therein lay the rub. How can something of such profound depth be affected by superficial pursuits such as stopping to breathe or writing down what you are thankful for that day?

The crazy truth is that these things are effective. If you are able to use strategies such as self care, good diet, and exercise routinely and with commitment, you will see some improvement.

However, the fact remains that the darkness will persist. Shining a light may chase it to the corners, but it will survive nonetheless. People will still hurt the ones they love, civil wars will tear nations apart, people will struggle in poverty all while Kim Kardashian is somehow relevant.

How to strike this balance? That is the challenge.

Horse at the Gate

aaa

Source

I’ve written about this issue before, somewhat recently I believe, however, it is something I am bumping up against again pretty hard.

The nature of my depression in my opinion is nearly existential in nature. I am not at the point of questioning existence so much that I see no reason to get out of bed. However, I am certainly wrestling with my purpose in life.

In my experiences in therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy in particular, is very narrowly focused. “Mr X said I wasn’t prepared enough for my work presentation so that means I am not worthy of a woman’s touch.” I am being facetious here of course, as I tend to do, however those sort of experiences are not my primary concern. That is not to say I am above them. Familial and work relationships are challenging for me at times and I do struggle with assigning them too much thought and worry. However, I do believe I am at the point where, thanks to some great experiences in therapy, I have developed enough insight into such minutia that I at least have the tools to deal with them once they push me towards my tendency of rumination.

Now however, lately in particular, I am like a horse thrashing about in the starting gate. I am so fucking bored with life. I hate my job. I hate my city. If I pick up my head to look any further than the next forty hours, my mood plummets into the basement.

The problem with this is the fact that I do in fact have a good job. My family and friends are all in this city. I have an amazing wife and family. Why can’t I just settle in and appreciate these things for what they are? Why am I suffering from borderline grandiose delusions?

Now, when I mention delusions of grandeur, I am not in the frame of mind that I am special in any way, shape, or form. I am depressed after all and I have become quite the expert at reinforcing my well cultivated negative self image. What I feel however, is that I have the capacity to contribute more to life than I am. I have the ability to participate in a role that gives back in a more meaningful way to society than the way my life is currently trending. I feel like I am wasting my life.

I hate this feeling. I should be happy with what I have. I am not seeking happiness. The character of Don Draper in Mad Men said “What is happiness? The moment before you want more happiness.” That is absolutely goddamn right. What I am seeking is contentment. To be able to be happy with what I have is my main goal. This self imposed suffering is tearing me apart.

I have the insight to it, but I’m fucked for what to do about it. I swing my feet out of bed and dread the day ahead. How do you rectify this?

Am I just doomed to have this restless personality? To what end?

That’s about enough whinging for the day. I just wanted to point out that depression is more complex than our relationships and history. Sometimes it is a battle with the very nature of who we are.

Home is Where the Hurt is

qMHEdle

Painting by Rob Gonsalves

I’ve spoken before about how bone-achingly draining it is fighting depression. It is not a cut and dry throat infection or broken leg. It is even more complicated than most major illnesses. It requires a complete change of lifestyle, environment, and thought. My fear remains that is almost that you have to become a different person. As much as I hate myself most days, I don’t fancy the prospect of becoming something I am truly not. That being said, what I am is sick.

I am still yet to use every tool at my disposal as well. I am still in need of more time for meditation and I need to vastly improve my diet. (Sugar? Get rid of sugar?!?) I need to perhaps move to a community that reflects my values. I need a more meaningful purpose in life, at least a more suitable job.

It is a game of inches and each is gained through monumental effort. What I have found lately as I have slipped slightly (Canadian winters tend to do that to me) is a new frustration.

It is the horrific realization that my state of enduring depression is somehow so welcoming.

It is as if it has indeed become my natural state, and as soon as I near the surface and hope to break free of its embrace, I begin to feel vulnerable and anxious, as if I am alone in a new environment and unsure where to turn. I find this extremely alarming. How can something that seeks to destroy me. also convince me that it is a state of comfort and safety?

I am not sure how to battle this one, other than to keep fighting and hopefully hold my ground long enough in recovery to discover that feeling better is…..well, better.

I don’t know what to say. Just when i think I have a hold on this slippery bastard, I encounter something new that muddies the waters.

Man Up

aa

Source

 

While trying to distract myself from my thoughts yesterday, I was browsing reddit when i cam across an ‘askreddit’ thread titled, “What is perfectly normal for you, but totally unacceptable for many others?” I wasn’t expecting much from this thread. In fact I am growing weary of the comment section on reddit. I have been there long enough to begin to notice it is a recycled, cyclical race for fake internet points.

Nevertheless, a comment from user bruttsmom really stopped me in my tracks:

“My husband hasn’t worked in almost 10 years. I don’t make a ton of money but enough for us to have a nice (but small) house, two reliable vehicles, and the ability to make small purchases without much thought. See he suffered most of his life with severe depression and the jobs he had made it worse. Now he’s much happier- so I am too. He spend his days playing guitar, researching whatever catches his interest, and taking care of the house and yard. I don’t mind even a little bit that I’m the only income. I like my job and don’t need a lot of material things”

It was refreshing to hear from someone in this situation. I struggle with mental illness and gender roles. This is an area that needs much more attention as no matter how much we try to end the stigma around mental illness, there will be the underlying gender roles that will stand in the way of true acceptance.

Sick is sick.