Posts Tagged ‘optimism’

The Bright Side

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Normally with that title, this could be expected to be a follow-up on what I had mentioned before about light therapy, but today I actually intend to focus on the positive. The positive that involves less pun-related groaning.

I read once, on another site, a list of the “12 best things about being mentally ill.” Got me thinking about my own perspective on this, and I’ve always sort of intended to create a list of my own. I think perhaps today I will.

My Twenty-Five Upsides To Being Diagnosed With Depression:

1) Since I had to list it on my introductory medical form, everyone in my new dentist’s office was really nice to me. Like, they didn’t even harass me about not flossing. That nice.

2) The insurance company can’t complain when I haven’t sent them their requested forms yet. Even if they have already called three times to check in on them.

3) Getting a diagnosis means that instead of being weak and sub-par for the many years that I troupered through this on my own, I was actually a titan.

4) Since being forced to discuss my deepest, most personal insecurities with strangers, I’ve become a lot less self-conscious in talking about anything else. Wanna’ know about my sex life? Sure! (Note to creepy strangers: Do not actually e-mail to ask about my sex life.)

5) I have become WAY more self-aware than I ever was – and I would have described myself as an extremely introspective person. There are subtle reactions and thought patterns and all kinds of crazy shit going on in there that I really had no idea about before.

6) I have learned new depths of what it means for my husband to love me. When you’re going through a debilitating downturn and are distressed because you don’t feel able to take care of your basic needs, and he offers that if you want you can just stand in the shower and he’ll wash you off so that you can feel clean, that’s love.

7) I have learned a TON about the human brain, how it works, and its potential to change and grow physiologically speaking. Very cool stuff, and not at all limited by how it relates to depression in particular.

8) Not always being able to please people and give them what they want because of the limitations of the depression has made me much more able to do it in general.   No Mom, I’m just not going to send a thank you card to my uncle for that.  Not because I’m a bad person, just because I have other things going on that are more important right now.  I have also learned that an 8 with a bracket beside it makes sunglasses-happy-face.

9) I have a much clearer vision of the things that are truly important to me, and the things that really are not.  And I am slowly learning not to give 100% of myself to the latter.  Perfectionism is a hard habit to break, but I am trying now.  I didn’t even truly recognize it as a negative before.

10) I used to care to the extreme what people thought of me and whether they were judging me. Being forced to spend a lot of time potentially being EXTREMELY harshly judged by people has made me much more immune to the effects. I still care more than I would like about what people think of me, but not nearly as much as I did before. I am much more willing to be more sincerely myself now, whether or not I think that people will like it.

11) I have been able to recommend strategies and/or books and/or other resources to my sister, mother, and husband, all of whom could probably use the help. My husband’s own life is better now because of what I have learned for myself.

12) I have a new awareness of the difference between thoughts that signal that I am well, and those that indicate a problem. “I want to go see friends” – well. “I want to drown in the bathtub” – not well. Believe it or not, this was not once as obvious as it might seem. I didn’t realize it still counted if I didn’t really intend to follow through.

13) I get to spend a lot more time with my cats.

14) I am fully caught up on all kinds of T.V. that I would never have gotten around to watching.

15) I am now absolutely thrilled to be feeling “kind of down” or “kind of nauseous.” Everything is relative, and I really do appreciate the positives now. In the windows of time where the depressive fog clears for a moment, the whole world is magical.

16) I have formed interesting relationships with internet people and communities as a result of the times that I didn’t feel up to going out, or didn’t really have anywhere to go.

17) I made a blog.

18) I discovered many ways of more effectively coping with stress. I have always been a pretty high stress person, and had I not have broken down completely, I could have lived for years just being kind of drained and miserable.

19) It has inspired me to reconsider my career. Before the full break-down and being forced to step away from it for a while, I knew that my job was a strain on me but thought that I would miss it terribly if I ever walked away. I walked away. I’ll live. I need a less stressful job.

20) I have connected with tons of other people who are struggling with the same thing, many of whom were already in my life, and some of whom didn’t tell me previously. I never would have known, and we have a closer relationship now.

21) My goals and priorities have shifted very much from my work life to my personal life. I always felt that work was less important, but in the past it always managed to take over anyway. I am really hoping that this won’t be the case as much next time around.

22) I am now making time to do the things that are important to me, rather than waiting for time to come.

23) I have been forced to SLOW. DOWN.

24) I am gradually learning to identify and ask for what I need, and to be able to accept help.

25) If I come out of this, I truly think that I am going to be a much more self-secure, centred, vivacious, sincere person on the other side. That may never have happened without this, and think of all the time I would have missed.

Vader’s Team

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

A while ago, I read a book called “Learned Optimism.”  It was recommended to me by my psychologist, primarily for my husband (as I had recently introduced her to his tendencies towards occasional voracious negativity) but also for me.  But why? I asked myself.  I am the eternal optimist.  Always have been.  I am the “silver lining,” “everything for a reason,” “look on the bright side” kind of person.  I have been engaging in CBT to try to modify some of my core beliefs because “people should be happy all the time” is not really realistic as a life goal.

Turns out, when defined psychologically, I am a terrible pessimist.  I put my husband to shame.  In the “normal world,” though, optimism is pretty strongly linked with trying to be positive about things.  In psych terms, the perfect optimist sees everything as temporary, limited in scope, and not their fault.

Everything is my fault.

Restaurant got my order wrong?  Husband seems grumpy?  Mom’s feeling guilty?  Coworker snaps at me?  Awkward silence?  Given inappropriate medication?  Not past the depression yet?  Must be me, at least partly.  I am vividly aware that I am at least partially responsible for almost all of the bad things around me.

Global warming?  I’m pretty sure I had a hand in that.

I recognize clearly that other people or circumstances may have a hand in these as well, but that isn’t where my focus goes.  I am immediately reflecting on what I could have done differently or better to prevent whatever it is that was undesirable.  Even now that I’m aware of it and sometimes try to deliberately think about another person’s role in things, my mind is constantly interrupting with the “yeahbut.”  Yeah, but if I had been articulating more clearly I’m sure they would have heard me correctly.  Yeah, but if I had said the right things at our appointment, then I’m sure he would have known what to prescribe.

And as much as I hate to admit it, and can see rationally that it’s just not true, at my heart I do have a hard time recognizing that unpleasant situations are just a transient blip on my emotional radar and not the signal that something permanent and dire is going on.

I am feeling generally tired today.  The last few have actually been pretty good for that.  I’ve had a pretty predictable “high” around two hours after I take my morning Ritalin.  I had tentative visions in my head of what I would do with that high today.  And I waited.  And I waited.  And I waited.  And it never came.  First instinct?  THE RITALIN IS NOT WORKING.  There is no particular panic to the statement, just an intense dawning realization.  I was mistaken.  I thought it was helping, but it must have been some other set of circumstances that was making it seem like it was.  Maybe just the timing of my morning coffee (which I can drink again now that the Prozac and its coffee-hangovers are gone!).  The Ritalin does nothing for me.

See, this is the way it almost always works for me.  Unless I focus really, really hard on it (and even sometimes then), my mind immediately decides that I’ve been mistaken in my perceptions of all good things previous, and that this one piece of negative information is what’s real.   Twenty pieces of evidence that I’m doing well and then one that I’m not?  I’m not.  Hours of great conversation with someone and then a stray comment that leaves me feeling misunderstood?  Maybe I can’t really trust them.  Maybe they don’t really get me at all.  Fifty pieces of really positive feedback in a job evaluation and one thing needing improvement will send me scurrying out of the room to work my ass off.

So today, maybe Ritalin is useless.  Sigh.

I will point out that I just finished editing a big list of tips on weathering antidepressant withdrawal symptoms in which I mention the importance of keeping one’s blood sugar stable.  And that I’ve eaten barely anything today.  Except milk.  Which my husband keeps telling me doesn’t count as a meal.

What does he know anyway?

(…besides geography.)

(which helps a lot when we play as a team in Trivial Pursuit)