It has been a long time since I have written. I have been very busy, which I guess is kind of an excuse.
In the past I have argued depression is not necessarily a disease. If you look back at my posts, you will not that I am in no way trying to claim expertise on the subject. I once believed that it is a disease. It has been turned into a disease my the APA, so that our "disease" can be categorized and easily fixed with a magic pill. If you want more on my opinion on this issue read later posts.
Well, recently I read Tyler Hamilton's book on doping in professional cycling and his time riding with Lance Armstrong. He did not hold back and was not kind to his erstwhile friend and ex-teammate Lance Armstrong.
I found the story very interesting, but the one thing that really stuck out to me, that might not to the more casual reader, is Hamilton's admission that he suffered from depression. He does not go into great detail. But, he mentions that when the cycling authorities began beefing up the testing of banned drugs, and especially once he was caught he was severely depressed.
Once he comes clean and moves to Montana, away from all of the stress of his former life, his depression subsides.
It seems to me that this once again demonstrates that depression is not so much a disease as it is a inability to effectively deal with life's constant pressures.Enjoy life, Peter
I hate doing it, but I do it anyways.
We have not gotten a lot of snow, which means that I could ride. But, it has been very cold, and I have limits on how much I am willing to withstand in order to get a ride in. I generally like it to be at least 40F. We've had some warms days, but I have been working a lot. this means that I will not get home until right before it gets dark.
So, my only alternative is the trainer. I could use Wii Fit, but that seems to only be beneficial to individuals that are seriously out of shape, or that only want a light workout. So, I don't use Wii Fit, which brings be back to the trainer.
So, I get on the bike and spin. It is very boring and the trainer is loud. The one advantage is that I get to listen to my MP3 player while I ride. I hate it. The only advantage, as a cyclist, is that I will be in better shape when the warm weather arrives.
However, there is the more important advantage. If I do not exercise, I fear that I will get into a funk. At the very least I know that I will put a bunch of weight on, which will most definitely put me into a funk. So, I attach the bike to the trainer and I spin, spin, spin and go nowhere.
Getting better, and staying that way is not easy. I had to do things, and continue to do things, that I knew would be good for me, but I did not want to do. I had to do the taxes that I put off for two years, I had to get out of bed and keep my mind active, I had to find an alternative to meds, and know I have to get on the damn trainer and spin even though I hate it.
The good news is that we just had a huge snow storm and tomorrow I get to get outside on my snowshoes.
Here it comes again. The winter blues.
Nothing was more depressing for me, when I was depressed, than the short cold winter days. And, I am one of the few that I know that enjoys the winter months. It's the darkness that I dislike. As I write this from my New England town at 4:17 it is already dusk.
If you feel more blue during the winter months I suggest that you get outside. The worst thing that you can do is hibernate inside for the next three months. Even if you hate the cold, it is important that you get out and soak up some sunlight. Even if it is just a short walk around the block, you really need to get outside.
Try to think of yourself as a rechargeable battery and as the sun as the charger. The more time you spend outside, in the charger, the more energy you will have to get through the day.
Now, I am not a sun worshiper. In fact, there are few things that I dislike more than sitting on a beach all day getting fried by the sun. However, I know that I feel much better after I have spent some time outside. One of the main reasons that I hate using my trainer (a trainer is what cyclists attach their bikes to so that they can ride inside) so much in the winter is that I do not get the same feeling of renewal that I feel after I ride outside. Therefore, I find myself outside waling in the woods more during the winter. I am lucky enough to have a huge forest within walking distance of my apartment.
Fear. More to the point, fear of what I believed to be reality, but in truth was not.
I recently bought a truck. I bought it because my painting company had shot off like a rocket, and it was obvious that my original plan was not going to work. My original plan was a followed. I would use our one car, a Toyota Carolla to get my painting materials to the work site, and then I would either ride my bike to work, or if the weather was bad, my wife would take the train to work and I could have the car for the day. It was not a great plan nor was it terrible. Our car has a rack on it that we use to transport camping supplies and my bike.
For years I had avoided buying vehicle. For a couple of years it really was not financially possible. But over the last couple of years we had really been doing a lot better. Yet, I knew that even if we could afford to get a car or truck for me, the insurance for a second vehicle would make the expense out of our reach. This is what I believed. I can say that I really did not hate having only one car. It was rarely an inconvenience. But, it did force me to work nights, which I hated.
When I began my painting company--when it was just really a thought, and I really did not have any clients lined up--this plan seemed as if it would work. Then things started to happen. First, I got a call for a job. Since you are reading this on a website dedicated to depression you will understand why I was a bit shocked. Although I wanted to succeed, deep down I was prepared to fail. A string of failures is what brought the depression on, and I was hesitant of venturing into the unknown.
Then I got a call from my wife's cousin, who wanted me to paint his house (inside) which I would soon learn was going to be a huge job. I was beginning to think that the "going small" idea might not work. I might need bigger ladders than expected, and this meant that I was going to need a truck. But, I still held off. What if I did not work for two months? How would I make a payment without income?
Then it happened, I got a call to do give an estimate for an exterior job. Instantly, I knew that I was going to have to buy a truck. I was scared to death. I found one that I could afford, But I still had to call my parents and have them convince me that everything will be alright, and that I really did need a truck.
Now, here comes the part that is the point of this post. I bought the truck, and then prepared myself for the damage from the insurance company. I could not believe what I was hearing when I talked to my agent. I actually had to clarify a couple of times that what I thought I was hearing was actually what I hearing. I added the truck onto our policy, added rental insurance (for a vehicle if we had an accident), and added renters insurance for our apartment. All of this cost only $100 more than what we were paying for the car!
This is not the first time that I had been very hesitant to avoid what I believed were unwanted consequences. When I lost my last teaching job, I was so depressed that I found it almost impossible to search for a job, and my wife and I were forced to declare bankruptcy. It really was not the shame of bankruptcy that kept me from wanting to go forward with it. I really was not ashamed at all. To tell you the truth, there were a few financial institutions (especially my bank) that I really wanted to screw. What I really feared was the inability to buy a car if we declared bankruptcy. Bankruptcy remains on a person's financial record for seven years in the United States. I knew we would certainly need a new car in the next seven years, and because of the bankruptcy, we would not be able to buy one. Again, this fear was unfounded.
Your experience may not be the same as mine was in dealing with my depression. In fact, it most certainly was not. But, I have read enough on the subject to know that many that are depressed avoid situations in which they feel will increase there depression. I avoided doing my taxes for a couple of years because I knew that we would owe money. Money was already very tight, and I did not want to make matters worse. Intellectually I knew that in the long run I was only making matters worse, but emotionally I could not deal with more financial burden. And, as I discussed above I also avoided situations that I believed would only make my situation worse.
It is almost as if depression implants in you a view of the world that is all doom and gloom. At its core, that is what depression is all about. We apply for jobs, but do not expect to get them. We believe that no one loves us. We assume that people do not look up to us. And, we often avoid believing anything that contradicts these distorted beliefs. When I was still dealing with my depression, I had a couple of people tell me that they look up to me. This was when I was starting to get my life back together--working really hard to feel better. One of the people who told me this, through my wife, was my psychologist. I found this compliment had to take. Why would anyone look up to a 40 year part-time grocery clerk.
I know that it might be hard, but you have to try to turn off the negative thoughts and try to focus on reality. I did not find it hard to find a job over the past several years because I was a looser. It was hard to find a job because the economy sucks, and finding a job for a forty-something who is trying to change careers with a background as a social studies teacher when the economy sucks is hard at best. The reality was that if I kept on doing what I was doing, looking for jobs in a field that I had no experience (beyond education), I was not going to find a job. This job search depressed the hell out of me, because I knew the chance of getting a job were very slim. When I looked reality in the face and began to be more positive is when I finally found a way to make a decent living.
In a perfect world, would I have been a painter. Perhaps not. I will be paying for an education for most of the rest of my life that has nothing to do with painting. But, so far I am enjoying myself a lot. Getting phone calls for "Pete the Painter" is such a huge moral booster.
My unfounded fear of the unknown kept me from this for over two years.
Depression, as other maladies of the brain, is a problem that is more prevalent in western countries. I recently read an article in the Wilson Quarterly that discussed a reevaluation of dealing with schizophrenia-that perhaps drugs is not the best answer. For my opinion of drugs and mental "illnesses" see previous posts. One of the more interesting issues that it discussed is where and why schizophrenia is prevalent. If an Indian moves to England they have a much greater chance of getting schizophrenia and also would have had a much better chance of recovering from it if he had stayed in India. Therefore it is something in the culture that is affecting individuals. It is as if the culture is toxic.
How does this relate to depression. Depression works in the same way, and it is almost counter intuitive. In areas of the world where you would think depression would be most prevalent, such as third world countries where the majority of individuals struggle just to get the basics of life, it is not. Depression is more prevalent in the better-to-do parts of the world. I have read that many that study depression believe that this is a result of the western culture. In the United States success is often define in terms of money or what we "do" for a living. If we are not wealthy or we do not have a career that is deemed a good job by others we might consider ourselves failures. I am not saying that everyone feels this way. But, in general this is the way that Americans view the world. Many Americans believe that anyone that has money must be smart--because they must have used their smarts to get rich.
I have never really cared about money. I never wanted to be rich, and I still do not want to be rich. I would like to have enough money to travel some, and I have been drooling over a new bike. (Sometimes I drive my wife nuts with my obsession.) But, my tastes are pretty simple. My self worth has never been connected to the size of my paycheck. However, I did believe that what you do for a living, to a great extent, defined who you are as a person. I was going to be a great intellectual--a history professor.
That did not work out. I have discussed my failures in my chosen career many times in past posts. So, I don't feel that I need to recount my pain. Simply put, I became seriously depressed because I failed as a teacher, and was therefore a failure in life.
Despite the neurofeedback and the cycling, which both helped immensely, I had, for a very long time, very low self-esteem. I knew that I was smart and hard working, but felt that no one would ever hire me due to my past failures. I went through the motions of searching for a job, and I would occasionally get excited about a job that I felt I had a good chance of getting. But, I almost always expected no reply.
Eventually, I began to focus less and less on my career as the core of who I was and more and more on the rest of life when I defined myself. I was a great dad and husband, a lover of the outdoors, a backpacker, a cyclist, a bibliophile, someone who others could count on to lend a hand, a hard worker...ect. When I began to focus on the positives and less on the one obvious negative, I began to have a better perspective on my life. I was not a failure. I was someone who was struggling to find what they wanted to do with his life. But, what?
I knew that I did not want to work as a grocery clerk. I hate my job, and I could not imagine enjoying it any more if I was a manager. I also knew that any kind of retail was out of the question. Most retail jobs pay crap. And, workers are almost certainly required to work nights and weekends. I had been working two nights a week and every Saturday for almost 4 1/2 years when I finally decided to break away--to believe that I could make it on my own.
For more than two years I had contemplated starting my own house painting company. But, I had many excuses. It was not what I spent eight years in college to do, I did not have the money to buy a truck, I did not have the money to buy materials, I did not have experience writing estimates. And, most importantly, I knew that I would fail.
Finally, I took a bold step. I just decided to do what many had been telling me what I could do for several years. In less than two months after deciding to start a new painting company I have had two clients accept estimates, had a relative offer me a huge multi-thousand dollar job, and received a call for another job that sounds as if it will a least be a couple or thousand dollars. For the two jobs for which clients have accepted contracts, I will make as much money as I made working as a grocery clerk for three months. I have also bought a truck!
For the first time, in a very long time, I am happy with all aspects of my life. This is not to suggest that I think that my life is perfect. Yet, it is perfect. What I mean by this is that my life is the way that it should be. I have told my wife a couple of times that I daugther is perfect. She is smart, funny, silly, curious, but at times she can be a pain in the ass, whinny, lazy..ect. This is exactly what I expected an eleven year old to be, and thus she is a perfect. The concept of perfection is is subjective. To me a perfect life, is one that is for the most part enjoyable--one in which you look forward to life.
It took a long time for me to get to this point. But, it was all about perspective. A person does not have to have a career that brings joy to millions to be considered successful. He does not have to write a Pulitzer Prize winning book to be successful. He does not have to be a millionaire to be considered successful. Just focus on being important to your loved ones. Is the father that volunteers at their child's school as important as the father that spends thousands on gifts for their child, but never spends time with her? I think that the first father is much more important, and he is the person that I am striving to be everyday.