Monday, September 1, 2014

Final Reflections on July & August 2014

You may have noticed that this blog took a three-week hiatus in August. I wish I could tell you that I was off on some fabulous vacation, but the truth is that I fell into a pretty deep depression toward the end of July, one that I am, in many ways, still trying to climb out of. While I was at least able to continue writing creatively, all of my other endeavors fell by the wayside for a while, including this blog.

The reasons for this particular depression are many and complex. Two are too personal to discuss on a public blog. Another, much to my chagrin, is related to my feelings about turning 39 in July (I always said I would approach aging with grace and humor, but I find that that was much easier to do when I was in my 20s and early 30s). The final reason is related to my old nemesis, making friends, which always seems so much harder than it should be. Some of the issues I’m dealing with are beyond my control and some are not and it’s all jumbled together in a mess that is difficult to unravel.

What I’ve always hated most about depression is that it prevents you from doing the things that would make you feel better. My mood pretty much always improves when I get out of the house, especially when I’m exploring something new or going someplace I love; when I interact with people, especially if it’s more than just chatting with a barista; when I keep a clean house; and when I get some exercise for both my brain and my body. But when I’m depressed, like most people, I tend to sit on the couch and wallow.

I’ve touted the book Feeling Good by David Burns before, and it is in this book, I believe, that I read that there is no such thing as motivation. Reading that was such a light bulb moment for me. It’s what got me to start writing again. I realized that I’d been waiting around to feel motivated to write and that if I kept doing that, it would never happened. If I wanted to write, I just needed to write. So I did.

It’s the same thing with depression. I believe that I’ve been so much more successful at beating depression in recent years because of this idea about motivation. Instead of waiting around to feel like doing the things that will make me feel better, I make myself do them. There were several days in the last weeks when a conversation like this occurred in my head: “Get up and go do X. You’ll feel better.” “But I don’t feel like doing X.” “Just get up and go do it. Now. Right now. No more sitting here.” And I got up and did it and felt better.

Not that this solved all of my problems or immediately destroyed all of my bad feelings. If you've ever been depressed, though, then you’ll know that every fleeting moment of success or joy takes you one step closer to getting back to your old self. I guess what I’m saying is, I like my chances for continued improvement.

Due to the depression, and due to some financial issues, I haven’t been getting out as much as I should. Or, more accurately, I haven’t been doing much exploring, mostly sticking close to home lately. I’m hoping to get back out into the city in September. I remembered this weekend that there are still a lot of museums I’d like to visit, and I also learned about some other cool places that I want to check out. One great thing about LA is that there’s always certainly a lot to do. 

So there’s your glimpse into the current workings of my inner mind. If you’re stopping by to read, I hope you’ve been having a better time than me. Why don’t you tell me about it?


Helen Town said...

Jan, thank you for your courage to share your story. From the photos you've posted, I never would have guessed you were depressed. You're an inspiration to all of us who suffer on the inside.

Patricia said...

I tend to think of starting to pull myself out of depression as "getting back up on the horse". As in, "is today the day I'm going to get back up on the horse?" But I like that idea of there not being motivation. Sometimes I'm motivated to do things, sometimes not, but mostly I do them. But it's so much harder when I've fallen into the crevasse.

I'm glad to hear you are working your way back. Because I've been so busy with work, a lot of my usual stuff has fallen by the wayside and I'm in danger of not getting things started again. I looked at my usual Tuesday list and shuddered. Tomorrow will be a good day to roll out those normal life routines. Today is still a busy day with too much paid work.

balyien said...

Helen - Thanks! Sometimes it's very difficult to open up & admit what's going on inside my head but I always feel better after I do. I wish I'd learned that lesson when I was younger. I hope you're doing well!

P - Yes, it's definitely harder to force myself to do things when I'm feeling down. I don't always succeed but I feel pretty philosophical about it. No matter how good life is, some days are just a wash. How are things going for you now that school's been back in session for week or so? Still super busy?