I Hate The Holidays

image I was going to start this post talking about how I thought I had already written a post about this topic. In fact I had, last October, but it never got out of draft status. Reading it now reminds me of how bitter and angry I was last year. It’s a little shocking to read because I am such a different person this year.

I still don’t like the holidays and for much of the same reasons as last year but this year I’ll take some of the sting out of it.

I am a traditionalist in that I don’t like to see or hear anything about Christmas before Thanksgiving. But already, friends on Facebook and the like are talking about taking out their Christmas music, before halloween! Poor Thanksgiving, always getting the shaft. Really, though, it’s a more a matter that I hate the entire holiday season.

It’s not uncommon for people to dislike the holiday season. The is even a term  for it, Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD. Cute, right? For me it centers around all the forced happiness. Oh, isn’t it wonderful, the holiday season, so full of joy and wonderment? Its the happiest time of the year it is said and yet not so much for everyone. Some people struggle mightily, myself included many years,  and no amount of snow or fat guys or candy is going to make that better. Let alone Christmas has become mostly a consumer holiday with only a tangential link to is religious origins. It’s easy to be cynical. The root of the problem with the forced happiness is the implication that if you don’t love the holidays there is something wrong with you. Yes, in fact there is. I am suffering from depression or anxiety or any number of other things. Thanks for reminding me and making me feel bad about it.

Outside of the forced happiness is the gift giving pressure. What did you get? More importantly, what did you give? Was it enough? Did they like it? Was it the “perfect” gift? All the marketing just sets us up to be disappointed because everyone in the ads gets the perfect gift and their so so happy. Why aren’t the people I give gifts to that happy? It’s the thought that counts though. Nobody is going to judge you based on your gift giving, right? Right. Of course I have this gift giving thing all ass backward. I understand the positive side of gifting. It’s just so overblown around Christmas, I think the meaning gets warped. It’s the over-hyped, out of control marketing that does the warping. I don’t think I am alone in wishing we could go back to simpler times. It could be my Jewish side that gets in the way. We weren’t so strict as to not celebrate Christmas, but as Jews, we always took it with a grain of salt.

Breakthrough!

cloud-breakthroughI had the epiphany of all epiphanies, the breakthrough of all breakthroughs. I found the key to everything that is wrong with me, your mileage may vary,

This is not some new thought I hadn’t known before nor some magic revelation. It’s a common, well known issue but I had not been able to apply it to myself in a way that made sense.

It’s all about self perception, self image. Duh, right?

My self perception has been horrible and you will usually live up or down to your own perceptions. If you see yourself as stupid you will literally become stupid.

I have been seeing myself as a fraud; as not capable and lazy, among other things. I’ve not been able to solve the puzzle of my apathy and ineptness for so long. Its all there in the self perception. I’ve tried many things but nothing I do or think will ever have an effect until I improve my self image. That’s why nothing has worked and why I never change. It’s at the root of my lack of self confidence.

Looking back, I don’t think I have ever had a positive self image. As far back as grade school, maybe earlier. I was always an average achiever at best. I don’t remember being encouraged to strive for more either; certainly didn’t care to myself. Being average didn’t have a cost either. My parents were wealthy and generous enough to give me most of what I wanted. But not everything. Many kids in over privileged Southern California got cars when they turned 16. I did not. I no uncertain terms my parents said, no way, and it didn’t really bug me because I never thought of myself as entitled. But my parents could have said, you can have a car if you can do these things; and laid out some very specific and challenging goals. Give me something to strive for and teach me that hard work and perseverance are worthwhile. The only thing I ever wanted badly was a personal computer. I wanted an Apple //e but again, my parents said no. This time, I was determined and schemed a way to get a Commodore 64 instead. It was much less expensive than the Apple and was within the realm of possibility with enough paying side work and chores. Seeing my determination and knowing it wasn’t just a passing fancy, my dad got me the Apple //e. You see, I was never made to work for anything. All I ever needed to be was average. I also think this is the root of my belief that I was a fraud. Deep down, I felt like I didn’t deserve all that I had because I did not do anything to get it. I knew I didn’t earn anything.

Something else I also go back to is my family and the wonder sisters. I was never able to measure up to them, what did it do to my self image? I’ll never be that good, that smart. Why even try. The beginnings of a self image; average at best. Even in todays world, I often feel intimidated by others in my field who I see as better than I am. In many cases they are but it confirms my bad self image and the fraud feelings. Just because there are other people more capable than you in your given field of work doesn’t mean you are worthless, except it did for me.

The next logical question is, how do I get out of this mess?

It’s one part Tony Robbins, one part Henry Rollins. Tony Robbins, in one of his audio tapes said “how long does it take to change?” The answer, “in an instant”. The moment you make the decision and start taking action. For the first time, this resonated with me. Make a decision. The decision I made, quite conclusively, was not to let myself think of myself in a negative way again, no matter what. I was very careful about the language I used in my head, not allowing myself to continue to use the negative words I had in the past. This was really a key thing. I knew it was going to take time to really cement this and there would be struggles, but I took it day by day. Just small moments in time to remind myself that I was ok and I had nothing to feel badly about. How was I able to flip the switch like that? Because I was focused on the right thing, the self image. Then I was listening to Henry Rollins one day while cleaning out the garage and the song Low Self Opinion came on. It’s the first track on the album The End of Silence. I had herd the track plenty of times but this time, it hit me like a freight train. The whole song, but particularly this:

“If you could see the you that I see
When I see you
You would see things differently
I assure you”it

Exactly, and that’s what I was starting to do, see myself as “you” see me. And it’s working. It has been close to a month since I first stumbled on this revelation and I feel much better. My outlook is sunnier and I have a renewed self confidence at work. After many, many years of a painful downward trend, I am looking forward to many years of an upward spiral. Not that this is a cure-all. Far from it. I feel like an alcoholic in that I’ve licked a problem but it will always be there, lurking if I am not careful. I have a problem with negative self impulses and that’s not going away, but I have learned to deal with it and control it.

I’m not done yet either. I have a long way to go still to get where I want to go, but now I feel like I have a bit of hope. As I learned from the deepest part of my depression, hope is everything.

Onward and upward!

 

 

Better or Different

eggI don’t have a great deal to report and that’s generally a good thing. But somehow I thought of the bog here and wanted to at least check-in. Last year was possibly the worst year of my life. Without going into details, several events happened and the general state of things was simply horrible. This year, things have started to turn around and it’s made a big difference all around. I wouldn’t say I am a happy person by any means, but I am certainly not depressed. I still carry a general overall tension about me and I rarely feel relaxed and at ease. This is primarily because there are a few issues left I have not dealt with that could come back to haunt me. But I am worlds away from where I was two years ago. I went through a massively traumatic event late last year and I held up psychologically. I didn’t crack and go down the dark spiral that has consumed me in the past. I generally feel like I am in much better control and I am not sure if that’s from the counseling I got or something else. It’s not like anyone gave me any tangible techniques to use so maybe the awareness itself helped.

I still have thoughts at times that I would rather not do this anymore, living. Some days it’s just so, I don’t know, not worth the struggle. Like I said, it’s not like my life is some happy go lucky fun time. But these thoughts are very intellectual not at all powerfully real and tangible like they were in the past. So am I better or just different?

Turned My World To Black

hopeimageThe complete and total loss of all hope. This is what turned my world to black. A deep, seemingly endless black hole and I nearly lost myself in it.

Hope is a popular thing to talk about, but I learned a in a vey personal way, the power of hope. It is the very thread that holds it all together and may be the one thing keeping you from falling over the edge.

During some of my darker years, there were times I had feelings of complete and total hopelessness. Not intellectual or theoretical this time, but very real. So real, in fact, that I became really scared like I had never been before. Scared in a way that I knew I was in a dangerous place, and that scared me even more. It was the closest I ever came to suicide. I could see it clearly; if there was no hope of any kind, there was no point of staying around. Very logical. I am not one to actively kill myself or maybe I just wasn’t as far as I thought I was, but I did have a very strong desire to die in a passive way. For example, if I could die of a heart attack in my sleep or by some ramdom accident. To go to sleep and just not wake up. I started with the feeling that it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen and progressed to really wanting it. Then the hopelessness kicked in and I realized I wasn’t joking around at all, I wanted to die passively in some way. This is when I scared the crap out of myself and realized I needed help.

Soon after that I had my second nervous breakdown and went to see a psychiatrist, mostly because I wanted anti-depressants. I was so fragile and desperate I couldn’t wait to swallow that first pill. I think I started to understand why some people take drugs. I would have done anything to stop the pain. In a different situation and without the resources available to me, I would have gladly taken whatever drug I could have gotten ahold of. Whatever would stop the pain.

I loved being medicated, because it made me stop feeling so much. I could tollerate almost anything. I loved being numb. Readers of this blog know I was on Lexapro for several years and was scared to stop taking it. Why mess with a good thing, right? Until I realized it was not working the same way anymore and it was actually starting to cause more problems than it was solving. The depth of my numbness lead me to stop taking care of things; my wife and family, ect. If my life completely fell apart and I lost everything, I just didn’t seem to care. That’s when I knew it was time to rejoin the feeling world.

Today, I still struggle with darkness which is kind of the point of this whole blog, but the most important lesson I have learned is to never, ever loose hope. No matter what happens, that’s the one thing you must hold on to above all else.

I hope you are doing well fair readers and I wish you nothing but the best.

Neuroplasticity And Depression

brainI was Googling around about rewiring the brain and came upon this very interesting article. It centers around the concept that the brain is constantly changing and remapping itself. Neuroplasticity they call it and the science offers hope for chronic depression among other things. I have read in other places about how challenging your brain with games or puzzles can also rewire the brain and cause positive changes. It’s like the same way exercise is good for the body, brain work also strengthens the mind. Usually I post down things here, so I am happy to bring you this bit of positive, good news. There is hope. We can get better, but it might take a little work; brain work.

 

A Constant Tension

TENSION 140My son has what they are calling a “sensitivity disorder”. I don’t full understand what this is yet, but clearly he has problems dealing with himself. Somedays are better than others. There are times when he seems to have a tention build up and he needs to expel it. Usually, he does this by throwing things or sweeping everything off the table with out fail swoop. You can just see the tension, almost feel it. Sometimes he shakes his head for side to side violently.

I might not understand what they say he is going through, but I do understand his tension. I know what it’s like to feel constant tension and unease. I’ve felt it all my life. You’re never really comfortable, never at ease. For me, the release of tension always came in the form of a physical tic. I’ve had many other the years, and I’m never without one. Once it was my leg kicking up in a particular way, another time it was stretching my mouth out. These days, I seemed to have settled into a nose wrinkle. Whatever it is, it’s always very noticeable in a physical way. I’m sure I seem pretty weird because of it.

He is only a baby and not talking yet, so I can just hold him, stroke his head and whisper “I know” to him. Nobody ever said I have a sensitivity disorder or autism or anything else, but back when I was a kid, they weren’t so quick to identify you with a disorder. You were just a nervous kid, a little high strung. Whatever, I have learned to deal with it, as best I can. Maybe when he gets older, it will help him to know at least a part of what he is going through we share.

Why I Keep This Blog At Arms Length

arms lengthI don’t post here very often and there is a very good reason for that. There have been times I wish I could be more a part of the community but I have a hard time spending too much time in depression forums or around the topic in general.

I find I don’t want to spend that much time thinking about my depression in any kind of ongoing basis. Yes, I struggle with it daily, but I don’t think it’s productive to obsess about it. I need to focus my mind elsewhere. That is partially how I cope, to have other productive things to do and think about. Everybody has their own ways and I don’t want to cast aspersions on anyone. In the very early days of my depression and especially right after I started Lexapro, I gained a lot from certain forums and did spend more time there. But where I am now, I can’t be there. I have this wonderful blog for myself when I feel like I have something to say and if you leave comments or questions here I will be happy to interact with you. But I limit my time on the topic and I might suggest you do to. What you focus on, you tend to manifest, so think and focus more on happiness and success. I know those are hard words for some. Believe me, I’ve been in the place where if someone said that to me I’d want to punch them in the face. Easy for you to say, I know. But this is where I am now and I hope you will be too.

Self Inflicted Wounds

Self-Inflicted WoundsAs I look back on 2012 and think about it, I really have to say it was probably the worst year in my life. I made so many bad decisions, decisions that are still causing trama for me as I go into 2013. It was the year a couple of things that had been brewing for years finally came home to roost.

It’s often thought that a new year gives you a fresh start but that’s not true at all when you have messes to clean up that you created the year before. This is what I am facing now; trying to clean up the messes from last year while not making any new messes. If I could just get caught up with everything and truly have a new start.

All of my problems are my fault. They are self inflicted wounds which makes it worse when I think about how senseless they are. None of them had to happen. Bad decisions, I’ve made a few. But already I am struggling not to fall into the same rut, the same bad patterns of behavior. It’s so easy to slip back into that comfortable mold, even when it causes so much pain later. It’s like eating chocolate. You know it’s going to make you fat later but when you’re eating it, it’s so good. It’s a battle, everyday and I think staying aware of that will make the difference. Maybe starting my day by asking, “How am I going to win the war today?” “What battles to I have today?” Don’t sleep on your issues, or they will rise up and destroy you.

Isolation

IsolationI am feeling bad feelings of isolation lately. It’s really to do with the particular dynamics of the house right now and the state of my marriage. It is one of the feelings I hate the most and I haven’t quite felt this way since my last year in college.

For my senior year at college the plan was to move off campus. I know a lot of people do this much earlier, but I always enjoyed living on and for my junior year I was actually in an apartment that was technically off campus even though it was right next to a dorm. But this was going to be really off campus, a few blocks away in a legitimate apartment complex. I was going to live with one of my best friends at the time and the girl I was dating was going to be literally next door. This was a great setup.

We moved in as planned but I nearly immediately felt uncomfortable. I really don’t know what it was but I felt like I had made a big mistake. I started to freak out and got to the point I couldn’t be there anymore, I needed to find another place to be. School had already started and all on campus housing was full so I couldn’t go back. Two more blocks away from campus was large house shared by several friends of mine. They to had made arrangements over the summer to move off campus. I went over there and felt better. The house was large, alive and bustling. I was desperate and literally needed a place to be so I asked them if I somehow could stay there. The problem was they were all full too, except for some space in the attic. I took it. I lived in that attic for a few weeks until the last roommate that was supposed to fill the last room in the house never showed up. Fortune shined on me, I got the last room.

I always felt good in that house and had a great senior year, except for the fact that I had left my good friend out in the cold. He was confused and angry and I couldn’t really explain my actions. I felt bad and guilty but I did pay my share of the rent; I would never stick him with the bill like that for my crazy actions.

Why did I feel so horrible in that apartment and why did I feel so much better in the house? If I felt disconnected from the school, well the house was even farther away so that didn’t make sense. I think a big part of it was the number of people in the house. With just my friend and I in the apartment it was too isolating. The apartment wasn’t tiny but it wasn’t huge either and there wasn’t enough light. The house was much larger and had more light. And with a house full of people it helped distract me from the fact that we were out on our own, physically disconnected from school. And with a house that populated you are rarely alone, not for long.  These are the only explanations I have. But it gets worse

When I graduated I went back home for a bit to figure out what to do next. I didn’t have a firm plan yet for post graduation. After just a week or so at home I had a complete nervous breakdown, my first. The senior year house helped patch whatever was going on with me that started when I moved into that apartment but now that I was home, just my parents and me, the isolation came back with a vengeance. I started to realize maybe the whole problem was graduation itself and the severing of myself from college altogether. That was the root of the isolation. Graduation would isolate me from school and my friends possibly forever. That whole world I had come to know and love so much was going to be over. Having no clear plan for a future beyond that made things much worse.

I would sit on the sofa in our living room and cry. I felt despondent and had no idea what to do. I would go sometimes to an outdoor mall nearby sometimes and walk around or sit at a table and just be there. Strangely, this always made me feel better. Sitting there, being among people even though I was not at all with them and nobody acknowledged me. Mom sent me to a psychologist who was the most worthless professional I have ever met. I think I actually said to him “They pay you for this? Because you’re not doing anything. I could get more out of talking to a wall.” How did I pull out of this? Hook up, and I do mean hook up with a friend from college who also happened to be moving to the same city I was to start our careers.

I have isolation issues to this day, obviously. Remember the Gloom From Out Of The Blue post where I was upset about a potential new house. That was isolation too or as my psychologist called it, existential loneliness, which sounds a lot cooler. I haven’t been back to see her in awhile so we never got a chance to work that one out but I probably should along with my avoidance issues.

I’m Afraid Of The Dark

DarknessMaybe it’s my circadian rhythms that are all screwed up because of the winter or maybe because of the shocking life event I almost went through that still has me rattled, but I have noticed that I am most unhappy and unsettled at night. I also don’t like it that the sun doesn’t come up in the morning until after 7:30am. I hate the dark.

Winters can be difficult in the pacific northwest because of the too short days and so much cloud cover and rain. Last winter wasn’t a problem for me, but I was on the Lexapro. And this winter has been much more trying. Managing my moods and attitude is much harder without the drugs and I have struggled with that this last six months. It’s partially what lead to the traumatic life event that had me within inches of reaching out for more Lexapro. I felt like I was right on the edge of going over the waterfall and actually did place a call to my psychologist to get more Lexapro. Fortunately she did not return my call for several days because of a holiday and by the time she did call things had calmed down and I felt like I could handle it.

I feel like depression and anxiety is like being an alcoholic. You can get better and learn to manage yourself, but that certain something will always be there, small and quiet in the back of your brain, waiting to explode again. The thing is now to manage it and how to deal with the situations that irritate it, make it want to stir and come to life.