A Personal Disclosure
It probably comes as no surprise that I have a number of personal behavioral issues. It’s no surprise because everyone I’m aware of has some kind of issues in various degrees. Having studied a fair bit of science and, in rare moments, being brutally honest with myself, I can see a lot of my issues.
That doesn’t imply that I can effectively deal with all of them. I’m getting much better about some of them.
For example, I do get bored easily. When I see a shiny new ‘hobby’, then I can obsess about it. I can spend hundreds of dollars getting the equipment, tools, and materials for this hobby. Then I’ll fiddle around with it for a few weeks and put it all in the closet.
This is a trait that appears to be genetic. My dad is very much like this. Unlike him, however, I’ve learned to control it. I look at something and say, “yes, that looks very cool”, but I know I’ll never actually do very much with it. So I don’t even get started. It’s better that way.
Like the example I just gave, many of these traits seem to be highly genetic. My dad is the obsessive compulsive one, while my mom is the manic-depressive one. I have both traits. Yay me.
I don’t know that it’s clinical ‘manic-depressive’, but that’s what I’m calling it. It’s mostly like there’s a happy-me and a sad-me. Sad-me is mostly lethargic and incredibly prone to beating myself up for real and imagined issues. My writing (as you can probably tell recently*) suffers.
This one isn’t so easy to control and deal with as the obsessive compulsive thing. I know it is happening. I just don’t have the energy to care.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a debilitating depression episode. It’s not that bad. It’s just a constant feeling of tiredness (and sometimes it’s just tiredness). I feel like I can’t get inspired. Writing is incredibly difficult. The problem is that this kind of thing feeds on itself and becomes a vicious circle of self-immolation.
I can’t write because I don’t feel like it. Therefore my writing sucks and I’m not doing something that I imposed on myself to do. Therefore I suck more. Now I’m too depressed to try to write. Repeat.
It’s not always the writing that is affected either. Work can suffer. Family suffers. It does well and truly suck.
Sometimes, I can’t see it coming. It’s subtle, almost nefarious. Sometimes, I can see it and it’s a very odd feeling to be able to see this coming. Being able to critically examine one’s own feelings and behaviors is very hard to do. It takes a horrible honesty and that can drive depression as well.
An event can be triggered by external forces or internal ones. Being out of money and getting a late notice for a bill is a great trigger for this kind of thing. Internally, not feeling like I’m making progress or accomplishing anything useful can trigger it.
Yesterday at the gym, my personal trainer was thrilled that I was able to do two reps of twelve pushups each. I though it sucked. Twelve pushups, really? How pathetic is that? It doesn’t matter that I’m trying to do correct pushups, not the kind that you see all the time. There is a fundamental difference when you’re trying to work specific muscle groups.
But the reality of the situation doesn’t matter. I know it’s a valid accomplishment. I know what I’m doing is exceptionally difficult. And I know that I’m making progress.
And none of that matters a bit. I still suck.
So how do I deal with this? The first thing is to realize what’s going on. It takes that brutal self-honesty to look at yourself and say, “I’m depressed.”
Second, look for and examine the causes. Are they really valid? Twelve correct pushups is an accomplishment, it really is. It’s not where I want to be, but I am actually making progress. It’s not a cause depression, but a cause for celebration. Bills, there will always will be and until I’m independently wealthy, there will always be times I will be late with bills. It’s not a reason to be depressed. It sucks, but that’s the way being middle class is. Depression is an emotional response and, in my experience, there are a lot of inappropriate emotional responses. I’m not saying we should all be Vulcans, but we should really think about emotions logically.
Third, do something. For example, this blog post. I actually do feel better writing this. Get off the couch and do the damned dishes. Just moving will cause all kinds of bodily responses, including release of various chemicals in the brain. These types of behavioral problems are really brain chemistry problems. That’s all. While I’m not a fan of chemically modifying our brains (says the guy sucking on a cola), it’s needed in cases of extreme imbalance. In less strong cases (mine for example) just moving can help. It’s especially useful if I’m moving and accomplishing something (stupid dishes).
Followup: Just reading through this I can see where I start to feel better and the writing changes.
* See about the beating myself up for no reason thing?