Facebook Sucks


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Facebook log (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I posted the text below to my Facebook account yesterday. I don’t think it requires any more comment from me but I thought you might like to read it.
This long status update is by way of goodbye.

I have decided to (at least temporarily) close my Facebook account. I’m also not going to be tweeting or using LinkedIn.

I will be posting to my blog.

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Pleasure


week-end-pleasure

week-end-pleasure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you enjoy life? Is there a part of your day or your week that you enjoy, something that you do, or something that happens, on a regular basis that gives you pleasure?

It might be something small. It could be as simple as your husband smiling at you, your girlfriend snuggling up to you in bed, cooking for your kids. It could be something big and obvious. When I was Associate Editor at Australian Macworld the monthly arrival of the box of magazines was always a huge buzz.

These are the things that make life worthwhile. Sure, there are the things that occasionally give us pleasure such as a good movie or a nice meal at a restaurant, but these are high spots. The things that count towards making life worth the living are the regular pleasures, the parts of life you enjoy.

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Getting It Out


Writing

Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “Tell us about a time you couldn’t quite get your words or images to express what you wanted to express. What do you think the barrier was?”

This happens to me almost every time I sit down and try and write about depression, particularly my own depression. Just a few days ago I tried to write a blog post about the feeling of loneliness and isolation that sometimes overcomes me.

The words came out but they came out haltingly and didn’t ever feel right.

What are the barriers?

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Anhedonia – A Loss Of Pleasure


Depression

Depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the things people find hard to understand with major depression is how debilitating anhedonia can become.

I’ve previously mentioned anhedonia here on this blog but just to remind you anhedonia is defined as the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions. It is a symptom of major depression, indeed one of the defining symptoms.

Think about the things you do to relieve stress. Do you have some sort of hobby or pastime? For me, my hobbies were papercraft and Lego. I also enjoyed spending time watching good movies and high quality TV such as David Attenborough documentaries or “The West Wing”. I enjoyed riding my motor scooter and bicycle.

Most people when they are “depressed”, sad or stressed have something they can turn to. When those things, our hobbies, no longer give pleasure then it becomes harder to cope with the stresses of life. I’m still capable of those things, and sometimes still do them, but they no longer bring me joy or pleasure. They are at best time fillers and at worst another failure, a task I can’t complete.

Boredom also becomes a problem. If you no longer gain any pleasure from your pastimes then it is difficult to get through a long night. You can’t settle down and do anything and I often find myself starting to watch a half dozen movies without being able to settle down and watch one.

All of this adds up to a life that is at best grey. I end up defining a good day as “not unhappy” and a good experience as “not boring” rather than “happy” and “exciting” as those possibilities have left me.

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Not A Chance


think stencil art & graffiti cat

(Photo credit: urbanartcore.eu)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “You receive some wonderful, improbable, hoped-for good news. How do you celebrate?”

How do I celebrate? Wonderful news comes along and what do I do to celebrate? Wonderful news?

I’m suffering from major depression. According to DSM IV “Depressed people may be preoccupied with, or ruminate over, thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-hatred.”

So the hard part of this question is not thinking about celebration. The hard part of this question is imagining a world in which I get good news. I just don’t believe it. It was only a few months ago I was telling my psychiatrist that I could find no evidence that I wasn’t in a universe that God had created for the sole purpose of torturing me and causing me pain to punish me for not believing in Him.

It starts with having no hope. I don’t even have any hope that I will get better. Nothing good can possibly happen to me because that’s not the way the world works, maybe it’s because I’m broken, maybe because I’ve had a life where at the moment all I can see when I look back is bad decisions.

Then there’s the constant feeling that nobody wants to help, nobody can help, nothing can help.

How can good news intrude into that? Where is the space for it to actually be good news? At the moment if I received news that you thought was good then I’d find a way of turning it into pain or anxiety. A million dollars? I’d find a way to lose it. A better job? Probably just more stress. A long lost relative? What do they want?

So, celebration. I don’t think so. I guess I’d tell Jessica my daughter and leave it at that. Oh, I know, blow a few dollars by going out somewhere nice for dinner with her.

Have A Talent?


Talent Show

Talent Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “Tell us about a talent you’d love to have… but don’t.”

The first thought I had when I read this question is what the difference might be between a “talent” and a “skill”.

So it turns out that a talent is innate, it’s something you have, while a skill is something you can acquire.

The last time Daily Prompt came close to this topic it asked about learning something that came hard. In that case I talked about drumming.

Most of the things I’d like fall into “skills”. In that post I also mentioned Italian and Haskell programming. They are skills.

What talents do I already have? I think I have a talent for writing with some experience and skill in editing. I’ve also shown a talent for computer support.

What would I love to have that is a talent not a skill? Quite a lot of my desires are skills. A talent? I don’t really need to know how to dance, paint or sing – none of those artistic talents.

Where I sit at the moment I’d have to look at my life and say “relationships”. I’m not good at relationships, both platonic and romantic, and there are parts of finding and maintaining them that I think are innate. Some are skills, skills like knowing how to care for people and being a good listener.

Other parts of it I’m sure are innate, they are a talent. Making friends, understanding people, even seeing problems in a romantic relationship. These seem to me talents rather than skills. I’ve tried over the years to learn these things but they never seem to come to me. I lack the talent. I try hard, I’m a good friend to anyone, I’m always the first to help in a crisis and don’t mind doing any of those small favours. In a romantic relationship I always try to make the other person feel loved, I always make sure I say it and I always do a range of small things to make the other person feel good. It just doesn’t seem to work, I just don’t have the talent.

There is another talent I seem to lack, particularly at the moment. I’d like to be able find pleasure and happiness. As I sit here writing away with my major depression leaving me grey and lifeless I look back on the last thirty years and it seems that happy has been a fleeting state of affairs, never with me for long and always far too fragile. At the moment with major depression there are medical reasons I can’t find it – anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, is one of the defining symptoms.

People tell me that finding happiness is actually a skill rather than a talent, that it can be learnt. I wish I believed that. It’s another thing I’ve tried to acquire, I’ve read any number of books, tried meditation, yoga, positive affirmations and all manner of things.

Could It Be?


English: Katy Perry performing "E.T."...

Katy Perry performing “E.T.” in Budapest on October 1, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After seemingly an improved mental state on my current medication for quite a while I have suddenly this week felt myself slipping back, felt myself slipping away into black moods. My insomnia is back with a vengeance, I’m waking early with no chance of getting back to sleep. It has left me wide awake but physically tired and shaking. I’m also back to weeping a lot over the past few days.

So what has caused this? Why suddenly are the old problems back? I can think of three possibilities.

The entire time I’ve been on my current medications the one thing I’ve continued to feel is anger and frustration. I’ve described the mental state the two combined have given me is “grey” and still leaving me without will or desire and still unable to find pleasure or fun but at the same time I find myself angry at the silliest things.

It could be that the anger and frustration have built up to make me say and do things I then turn into a black mood. I’m certainly harder to live with and I’ve said some things to Jessi that have upset her which then makes me feel terrible. The thought of driving off the one person who has stood next to me through all this is pretty upsetting.

The second possibility is that the stress of a job interview last week and anxiety about the preparation and now the outcome are weighing more heavily on me than I thought. I really want the job but truth be told I am lacking experience in Linux support for it and probably wont get it. That’s not good for me considering how I had to build myself up to get through the interview prep and the interview itself. Every rejection hurts a little more.

The third possibility is the one that interests me most since it deals entirely with the subconscious.

Last Sunday out of the blue I received a totally unexpected email. It was titled “Thirteen parts of the puzzle” and was just “I miss walking by your side, up the steps to The Wharf.” It was obviously from my ex, Sonia, who had left me in such a bad way that it triggered my descent into full blown major depression.

I had fired off both a quick reply and then a few hours later a quick short poem:

The Wharf
Ancient boards beneath 
My feet, white walls on
One side and bare bones
Of a mercantile
World long gone to sea
On the other lead on.Beside me the clack
Of heels and soft hand
In mine as we pass
Posters and photos, on
To an evening
Of shared art and joy. 

(A creative way of saying I remembered doing the same thing.)

I then pretty much dismissed it. It’s not the first time I’ve had a similar email out of the blue. Last October I got a link to Katy Perry’s song “ET” out of the blue. Back then it seems I quickly forgot about it.

Certainly there is a huge amount of mixed stuff associated with Sonia inside my head that has yet to be properly dealt with. The big one is the usual with a messy break up of dealing with the two different “people” – the one that you loved and made you happy while you were in a seemingly good and happy relationship and the person that caused so much pain and unhappiness at the time of the breakup that is so easy to hate.

A while ago, when the pain of major depression and loneliness was at it’s worst, I couldn’t help but yearn for the love and care of the first person while knowing that going back to that was impossible.

I had thought that while that stuff hadn’t really been dealt with that it had no effect on me stuffed away in it’s box.

So right now I’m wondering if right now, when truth be told I do feel a little lonely and friendless, that email has triggered some feelings that are not quite at the conscious level, that my subconscious is back to that yearning and churning up the old pain.

A couple of interesting data points.

I had no real trouble writing this post, I’m not sure if writing it made me feel better or just that the change from the early morning grey outside to a sunny day is responsible but when I went back to start the edit I found myself getting weepy when I was fixing the paragraph about Jessi.

So Jessica has quietly left for the day and won’t be back till after dinner she tells me.

Now I find myself finishing this up and totally stuck. I just started to call or SMS three different people to see if they were free for lunch or dinner but stopping before making a call or sending a message as I’m not sure I could cope with them saying no. Instead I sit here feeling lonely and weeping.

An Interesting Day – R U OK?


R U OK? DAY Bondi Beach. Awesome morning! Hope...

R U OK? DAY (Photo credit: andy@atbondi)

Today was R U OK Day here in Australia. It’s a day promoted by the foundation of the same name, “a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ to support those struggling with life”, as they put it. They believe suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

Over the past few days I have shared a fair number of their posts on Facebook so it would be almost impossible for any of my friends there to not know it was on. It would also be impossible for anyone who knows me to be unaware that I have been fighting major depression for the last eighteen months.

Socialisation is so good for me. Getting out and talking to people and connecting to the world. As I’ve mentioned Jessi just turned 21 and her 21st birthday party was better than drugs. It had a knock on effect, I felt better after the party so I managed to get some serious tasks done and that also made me feel better. Of course it eventually faded.

I also have to admit that I am not the best social companion at the moment. I am prone to spending at least part of the time telling you about how terrible I feel and my current anxieties, though not all the time. I will, as an example from a recent drink and a meal with a friend showed, be perfectly happy to spend half an hour on a pointless argument about the digital review system in international cricket or listening to how you are going and some of your troubles.

I now find it difficult to try organising or asking for social connections. It only took a few misses, knock-backs and last minute cancellations before I found myself with a terrible anxiety about rejection. I have tried to make it clear that I would really like social contacts from small gatherings to just a cup of coffee or a drink with a friend.

Given all that how many of my friends do you think were reminded today that they haven’t talked to me on the phone or made any contact apart from Facebook in many months? Don’t know the answer to that but I can tell you that not one actually picked up the phone.

It’s pretty easy to find yourself feeling lonely and isolated when you’re suffering depression. I don’t have a full time job at the moment so I can sometimes go weeks without talking to anyone apart from Jessica or the people in the supermarket. Beating myself up is easy. Feeling that nobody cares and nothing helps is all too familiar. Having a day like today makes it almost impossible to not think of myself as friendless, worthless and a failure.

In case you’re wondering, yes I did. I rang a friend who lives at a long distance and spent a few minutes checking how he had been going. He’s fine, a new job has lifted him out of his hole. Oh, and to my friends, don’t feel guilty, that’s not what this is about and you were (obviously) not the only one.

Please, if you know someone going through a rough time then make sure you stay in touch. If you really care then you might even want to put a repeating entry into your calendar, “Phone Steve”. Google Calendar even allows you to have something repeat with a gap in any number of days so you can set it to some number like 17 or 23 so your friend doesn’t think “Pete rings every third Friday”. Then be prepared for a little real conversation, be ready to arrange a cup of coffee or a drink. If you go to the R U OK Day website they have some tips on how to do that.

You could save a life. Perhaps even mine.

Thank You


English: A female doctor examines a child.

 A female doctor examines a child. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “The internet is full of rants. Help tip the balance: today, simply be thankful for something (or someone).”

So what to be thankful for? I can’t be thankful for my health; my asthma is currently terrible due to the fires around Sydney yesterday and major depression isn’t fun.

People? Should I be thankful for my friends? I don’t feel I have friends I

rely on. I’ve often felt quite alone and unsupported over the last 18 months.

There is one person I’d like to thank. Many (many) years ago I asked a woman I was sharing a house with to recommend a doctor nearby and she pointed me towards a family practice in Enmore. There I found Sheila and for the last thirty years (almost) she has been my GP. A good GP is a blessing, a great GP is a miracle.

Sheila is incredible, not only is she a good doctor she knows all the best specialists and she makes sure to get feedback on how you like the people she refers you to.

Then there is the help she gave me when major depression hit early last year. There was a few months where she was seeing me once a week just so I could walk into her office and cry for fifteen minutes and she would listen to me vent my pain, talk to me and keep me grounded and here. Since she has spent many hours listen to me complain about side effects as we went through a half a dozen different drugs that didn’t work before we found something that did any good.

In this day and age she does house calls. She also gave me her mobile number once and told me to phone her, when I didn’t she called me.

Sheila is caring, thoughtful and can put up with a heck of a lot from her patients. I know over the years I’ve put her through a lot and I know that she cares and even worries about me.

So thanks Sheila.