Battling depression

So I beat depression a few years back. Sure, I have my downs now and then for a few days to a few weeks at a time but overall I am now happy and very positive. I became at around 16, after having the best year of my life until my 20s. It creeps up on you, that’s the scary thing. If you could just see it coming you could prepare better, you could see where you were before to get a better idea of where you want to be now.

This post is being written for a few reasons, for one it’s a topic I know personally which helps me in my beginnings of writing. It will also help me when those ‘downs’ come back and more importantly with that, it will hopefully help people going through what I went through for 6 long years.

Firstly, for those suffering what I suffered, know that you are not alone. When our brain is in this state it does crazy things. Your brain, when the depression is deep enough, craves the path of least resistance. It will tell you this is a disease with no cure but ‘time’. Your very own brain will convince you that your problem is unique, there is no answer, there is no help. Your brain, in this state, lacks hope. Hope is important, hopes keeps us alive, hope drives us to further ourselves in any endeavor, so please do not give up hope. Never. Do not give up. Knowing what I know now I could have saved some of the years that were taken by this awful disease. Don’t get me wrong though, hope won’t cure you. Hoping tomorrow will be better than today won’t cure you by itself.

Hope makes happiness possible. That is the goal, right? That is everyone’s reason for being, to be happy most days. As I mentioned, depression is sneaky. Depression is like an opportunistic virus, it waits, it festers in anticipation for the moment your guard is down. It’s there waiting in the shadows, gathering more and more influence on your thoughts when things get you down, when stress is building. It is strange to think this is your own body’s reaction, bringing you down for an indefinite amount of time in such  cunning and ruthless manners.

Just like a cure is not truly known, neither is the root cause. However, depression is given the bulk of its strength through a variety of influences. Diet, prolonged stress, sleeping habits, diminished self-confidence and self-image and more. Depression would not appear with just one of these, it requires a collaboration of these influences.
Now before I go any further I need to confess that I did not use any anti-depressants or any other form of medication and so I cannot comment on the pros and cons of them. I only hope the advice and suggestions I make can help all people battling this in some way no matter what the severity.

Your brain will tell you that the cure is ‘time’. Just wallow in it for now, eventually things will get better. This isn’t entirely a lie. Ultimately time is the answer to depression, making your duty to minimize the time required to become happy again. There are many things that influence the condition, it’s not possible to find an accurate how-to guide to improve everything required to reduce the time taken for you to get better. The biggest step is to start gauging yourself whether every day, every few days or week by week. It is important when determining what directly influences your depression. For me, fitness was a major issue. I was a very energetic child and teenager until a bad chest infection left me bed ridden for about a month. That was around the start of my depression.

Of course, the nature of this condition diminishes motivation to be active and it deteriorated my fitness to the point that at around 18-19 years old my calves began to swell after a few minutes walking up the smallest of inclines. It is easy to see now how obvious lack of fitness can promote a baseline mood of apathy, but like I said, depression is sneaky and cunning. My depression’s effort to remain unnoticed was aided as I was turning 17 when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Suddenly my poor mood, energy levels and overall melancholy could be explained away if not for the utter disinterest I felt when having my life permanently altered. I was kicked out of college over this break, having missed too much class in the previous month. Finally, I had no need to go out every day. I only needed to concentrating on adjusting to my new life as a diabetic.

The other major component to my depression was my withdrawal from my social circles. This also happened when I had that bad chest infection, it was during a 6-week summer break. I spent the last 5 weeks in my room. I got into playing games, my lifelong sleeping troubles developed into a minor insomnia where I was sleeping in the early morning and awake all night. The conditions for an awaiting depression was complete. I was isolated, feeling content living in my own world during the night, I was losing stamina and energy, I was coming off a great time year and wondering what was happening to me. I was alone, I was being overcome.

My fight to be content and happy was a long one and began with my local GP. I was seeing her most weeks about this issue and that. “You sound a lot like you are depressed” began what lead to this post. She referred my to a psychologist who gave me the advice I needed. After my doctor, without direction from me, gave me another “you sound like you might be diabetic” I stopped my frequent visits. I saw my psychologist just a few times but she made an impact.
‘Step by step improvements’
‘Do the things you would normally do if you were happy, you will remember how to enjoy them again’

These are words I will remember forever and I wish that you apply them yourself as I cannot overstate that I would not be who I am right now without them. I never thanked my doctor or psychologist for everything they did, which they did with the utmost compassion and desire to actually help me but I will be grateful until the end of my days.
Now I am here for anyone in the same boat. I will be glad to answer any questions and help in any way I can, but right now my advice is:

  1.  Keep track of how you feel at regular intervals, this will help see what is helping or hurting. More importantly, seeing a trend of improving mood is an unbelievable motivator and one I wish I used years earlier.
  2. Keep at improving, baby steps add up to a hell of a lot over the weeks and months. Never stop moving forward regardless of whether you feel it’s a big enough improvement or not.
  3.  Read. Read every day. Read “The Power of Now”, this gave me the relaxed attitude I have now. I related to the author and took his advice and I live the reward every day. Read self-help to improve and motivate you every day, read fiction to improve your mood. Read.
  4. Never be ashamed. Never. You are who you are because of the sum of all your experiences and all the influences from your particular biology. Be proud of yourself, ask for help, Tell people you’re low so they can help pick you up. You’re not bothering anyone and if you are, they’re not worth suffering in silence for.
  5. Remind yourself every day that you will get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel, no doubt. Then go about making that light shine sooner rather than later.

 

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Procrastination

Let’s all be honest here, we all do it. Some more than others, some a lot more than others and that’s the issue. I am most certainly prone to procrastination, apparently those like me who live messy lives are more prone to. Not that it is an excuse for you or me, but it’s nice to know it’s not a personal flaw, strength in numbers and such. So why do we procrastinate? There are many reasons, particularly the daily stresses in life we are all bombarded by. Stress makes the brain crave happiness, so you settle to be happy now thinking it will recharge your desire to do the work you’re putting off tomorrow.

Except tomorrow is just a day like today or any other, threatening to be a repeat of the day of procrastination gone past. The only difference in tomorrow is the difference you make. So let’s make a difference. Aside from relief from stress, the other big cause of procrastination is fear. Particularly the fear of the unknown and the fear caused by perfectionism. “I’m not 100% today, if I do it now it won’t be my best”. It won’t be your best at the last minute either, but there’s no time so you settle. This is acceptable to you, it shouldn’t be. So face up to this fear.

Maybe it won’t be your best work, maybe it will. I’d bet that an early draft with corrections is closer to your best than project you’ve completed in a rush the night before. Overcoming this particular fear can be done by reinforcing yourself. You were assigned this project for a reason right? You weren’t told to correct a problem in the Mars rover (Hi Curiosity) by your boss at Company X (X stands for all except NASA) were you? You were asked to do something you are capable of doing, or you’ve set your own task on something you know you can do. So remind yourself that. You’re capable, you can do it. That is the ‘trick’ to overcoming this perfectionism fear, trust yourself to be able to do this. If you can do it at midnight the day before the deadline you can start it now.

For procrastinating unenforced deadlines the same system applies. You can put if off tomorrow, the day after or maybe next week. But if you want to do it now do not fall for your fear-induced brain’s voice telling you that you can’t do this. Get started. Tell yourself over and over that you can do it and then do it. Talking to yourself is the best thing here. Discipline comes from this, regardless of whether it’s raining outside or you don’t quite have the energy you’d like to have when breaking through the door to start is a fallacy. You can do it now just as well as you can when you are hit with the wave of motivation you wait for days for. Use self-affirmations and self-starters such as “I can do it” and “do it now” to just get your foot in the door, we all know once you start things become easier, so make the first step.

Just as it is important to shout over the voices in your head that tells you tomorrow is better it’s also vital to note that not all delay is procrastination. If you’re actually busy it is not procrastination. Procrastination is the act of doing something unproductive that gives satisfaction when other issues are pressing. It is a common practice when trying to overcome procrastination to plan when you will relax and when you will work. “I will watch TV until 3pm and then work until 6pm” etc. This can lead you astray, the possibility is that the hours you budget for work may not be enough but you will not find out until later when you are in a rush. This allows for more peace when relaxing of course, but that’s not the objective of planning your day.

Planning does have use though, as mentioned we all feel better about our projects once we get started. This is because when we think of something that needs to be done it is hard to plan in your heard the necessary steps to get everything done. Our mind wanders, fixing problems here and there, creating a confusing web with connections all over the place and causes a fog in the brain which leads to the other fear: the fear of the unknown. You’ve thought of so many possibilities (without taking notes) of where your project can go and now you don’t know where to start. Start with baby steps, plan out what needs to be done to get part A completed, then part B, C etc. Then go do it. Essentially plans of action work but plans of inaction do not work. Baby steps planning is important because it quantifies what needs to be done. It is not very useful to say “I will spend 2 hours doing X today and 3 hours doing Y tomorrow”. It’s too vague, it’s too open to the excuses your brain can make. “Well I’ve done 1 hour now I can do another hour later and it still works out”, what is an hour of work anyway?

Instead quantify what needs to be done, how much you plan to do and why. If you’re reading a book, you could say “I will read 20 pages when I get home so that I can finish my book by Friday and buy a new one Saturday”. If you know what you need to do and what you’re going to get out of it then you will be more likely to act. Fear of the unknown drives procrastination, which is why so many people stop learning to play the guitar or learning another language. It’s hard to quantify progress, so we don’t know if we’re improving well enough and we don’t know when we will get to sufficient quality. So make it known. Prepare yourself, know what you are doing and know what you want to achieve with this, once you’ve done that use your self-starter “do it now!” and get to it, tomorrow’s you will be glad you did.

Fake it ’til you make it

You don’t have “it”? It being happiness, confidence, the love of being out with friends and anything else. Pretend you do, pretend you are. This isn’t an attempt to hoodwink your peers or desired friends or other, faking it until you make it isn’t meant to be a sub par performer tricking others into thinking they’re great. The trick is played on yourself. I believe that people are mostly equal. Your brain is no different to the bright kid in school that was revered. I lived my life for many years learning nothing. Before that time I believed I was smart, not overly dedicated but definitely smart. As the years went by with my achievements still limited to those boosting my gamerscore I began to feel stupid, more and more stupid.

Which I was, most definitely. I wasn’t in a good place back then but of course we all know people who even through rough times continue to learn and to grow, some even thrive on these bad times and gain motivation to improve and win even more. So what do you do when time has already passed? You can’t go back in time with a new determination to make sure you continue to show results and continue to improve yourself. However, lack of growth doesn’t mean you’re not smart. You can learn anything, if you could go back in time and had the determination to do so, I believe 100% you could work yourself to whatever career you wish regardless of what you feel of yourself right now.

This is because our brains are all mostly the same. I recall reading about a child prodigy who was asked why he was able to understand the complicated things he could understand beyond his years. His answer was that his brain implemented less ‘blocks’ when trying to learn something or work something out. Simple as that. His brain was not larger, denser nor filled with magical intelligence power. His brain works better because when he encounters a problem it simply doesn’t fog up as much as ours.

This is where faking it until you make it comes in. So many times in our lives we get that elusive motivation to do something, something bigger than we’re used to. It seems so simple at the beginning, step one, step two, step three and we’re nearly there. You sleep on it. Problems arise, “it’s not natural to me”, “can I fix the problem that would come with doing this” ‘roadblock 3’, ‘roadblock 4’ – you get the idea. Do it. Just do it. Tell yourself you are the person who would do this. So what if you’re not, you can be and the way to make sure that you will be is to do the thing as if you were someone who would do that.

You can’t study 5 hours straight like the top achievers in your class? Act as if you are one of the top achievers and study as long as you can. You can’t lead people? Act as if you were a leader and go with it. You can’t make a lot of friends and go out every day? Act as if you are one of those people you look up to who do that (although you don’t actually have to go out all that much to make friends of course). If backing off because “I wouldn’t be able to do it anyway” gives you a 0% chance of success, why not wing it and see? Author Dorothea Brande wrote a book on the subject called “Wake up and live!” where she explains that to get the best chance of success in any venture you should act as if you have already achieved what you are looking to do and now you’re just doing what you did to achieve it.

What does this achieve? It gives you the confidence to do what you can do. You can do it. Unless your goal is to operate on somebody’s brain without medical knowledge or similarly long-term skilled professions, you can do it just as anyone else can. Thinking this way relieves stress also, which negatively impacts results of any venture. If you saw into the future and saw that you had successfully completed the project you are stressing over, you’d feel a lot more relaxed about doing it right now surely? So fake it until you make it and be happy doing it.

 

Positive Mental Attitude

Or PMA for short. It may sound like a throwaway phrase spoken by the wealthy, who may or may not have inherited their riches. There is a trend with the successful in any venture, though, to owe some of their gains to a positive mental attitude. Not only can and positive attitude bring success in careers and in turn, wealth, it is strongly believed to aid  in overcoming illness; laughter is the best medicine, right? (besides actual medicine of course)

I have read many self-help books over the last few years, in particular authors like Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone and Og Mandino. The former two in particular stress great importance on PMA, co-writing a book called “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude” (which is a great read, by the way). Reading these books I developed an undying optimism, my very own positive mental attitude. Are there downsides? Sure. Is the whole PMA creating success a little overblown? Probably.

Reading Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” was a turning point. The three books that changed my life are “The Power of Now”, which I read as I was on the better end of a long depression and slingshotted me to positivity. “The Greatest Salesman in the World” made me believe I was worth something, that I could succeed and finally, Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” made me so sure I could succeed I began to act, with the first step being a move to Canada which I’m enjoying every minute of now.

Potential downsides of being positive all the time? It can make you a pushover. I was the rock to my girlfriend of 4 years, propping her up when she was down became a daily task. The reward of abuse and absolute betrayal may have been avoided if I didn’t always look on the bright side of things and made some drastic but necessary decisions. The downside of the books? These authors are quite close-knit in their beliefs, many being influenced by the other, ultimately leading back to the beliefs of Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, three of the most successful and powerful men in the history of America. The message in these books becomes somewhat repetitive and cult-like, which can make it hard to buy into their belief.

My thoughts, having lived with a balanced optimistic/cautious outlook, a highly pessimistic view as well as a chronic optimism is that balance can be good. Whatever floats your boat, as they say. Whatever your beliefs are that make you do what you do and enjoy doing it is what you should continue believing in. Personally balance is great, it is important to step back and worry every now and then. Both for those of us who can no longer maintain that healthy balance, no doubt that my current attitude that the positivity gained from constant optimism is worth the occasional pain.

The minimums of communication

I’m sure you’ve seen it, on Facebook or other social media platforms –
“their*”.
Now, I know the basics. Heck, I’m trying to start a blog so I better know, right? I mean I do abuse commas and girlfriend, whose first language isn’t English has informed me that there’s something called present-perfect so I can’t call myself an expert. I’m not exactly writing ‘Learning English’ manuals or making entries into the dictionary, so does it matter?

I’ve seen a lot of abuse, a lot of looking down on people who did not learn the difference between their and there and it irks me. These people, both the victim and the critic typically are not on an endeavor to set the world of linguistics alight, so what does it matter if someone says “your an idiot” (Besides the negativity in calling someone an idiot)? Even now I don’t know where that question mark goes, before the brackets or after? Yet no one has ever criticized my English language skills and I am actually trying something that involves a decent use of writing etiquette.

The reason this all annoys me is because it’s communication. You get what I am trying to say, you know if someone says “that’s there bag” that they mean “their”. You know it. You understand what they’re trying to say and that should be enough because our language, with all its rules, is simply a means of communication. If they communicate their meaning to you, does it matter if they used the wrong there? It shouldn’t. Even if it does matter in some way, surely it doesn’t mean so much that it entitles bullying, calling people stupid or illiterate over something so simple and essentially insignificant. Besides, how can you criticize your friend or colleague over their spelling or grammar and then make “cash me ousside howbow dah?” girl famous?

So let’s fight over something more worthy of our time to discuss, like are goatees making a comeback in 2017 and why?

Value of the internet community

Recently I have been spending more time on user-input sites like Reddit and Imgur; It was Imgur that inspired me to create this blog after giving me the inspiration to write. By no means am I a writer nor have I ever aspired to gain views and upvotes on my opinions or stories. The pleasure of having someone approve of my work had disappeared while I was still in school, but online communities brings out this desire in many. How many people do you think are right now checking to see how much karma their comment received?

This is what it means to put yourself out there in the online world. Facebook began this incredible idea that people want to hear your thoughts, of giving likes depending on how relatable or inventive opinions are. Twitter, Instagram etc all thrive on getting followers and likes for this kind of approval. Largely post frequency, regardless the content (your mother’s spag bol) gets the rewarding appoval but there are some who use these platforms to display their innate creativity, think Bo Burnham on Vine and Youtube.

These internet communities have changed (and improved) over the years. 4chan as an online forum attracted many different types of people, the timid looking for advice to those who preferred a more chaotic pastime. Bullying, organized trolling and the works highlighted 4chan’s /B/ forum. Here, the input gave the satisfaction, knowing you have contributed via a comment or image surely gave someone a chuckle. With Reddit and and Imgur there is a race to the front page, through being the quickest to post a big story, reposting old favorites and through original content which typically comes in the form of meta mocking the lack of original content.

These platforms are for the up-and-comer and those trying to take their first steps towards releasing their creativity to the world. There is no looming shadow of the largest Youtube channels, there is a sense that if you have good content you can attract like-minded people who will reward you with support through upvotes and positive comments. Imgur was where I took my first step and I’m sure it was the same for many others looking for release in the way of creativity. This is the true value of these online communities, they are just that: a collection of like-minded individuals who want to support because they too want support. Everyone needs release, whether it is from their creative side or release from the horrors of the day. This is community, you, me, everyone, are one.