4 to 6 of sertraline

4 to 6 weeks of self-improvement

Day 29

So I had a friend post this morning on Facebook about how excited he was for Thanksgiving. He said that it’s a good idea to talk about what we have instead of what we don’t.

(And plus, he made me a bit character in a story that he’s writing, but that’s beside the point)

What is the point is that I think he’s on to something there, especially from the viewpoint of someone who has problems shaking negativity from time to time. You see, that’s one of the things that’s utterly deplorable about depression: sometimes you can’t see the positive, no matter how hard you try.

But the goal is to keep trying. Maybe we can re-wire our brains to work for us, and I think having a positive outlook can potentially affect that. So here goes.

I’m thankful that I have a job in this economic climate. I’m thankful that I have my health. I’m thankful that my wife and son have their health. I’m thankful that there are people out there demonstrating against corporate greed. I’m thankful that we are living now. And so much more.

I’m feeling a bit better now. Interesting…

  • physical self: broke a sweat by 5:30am
  • mental self: started reading Starfish and the Spider, a book about distributed and networked business models. Fascinating stuff
  • emotional self: played with my son, mindfully acknowledging his unabashed joy at toy cars
  • spiritual self: see above

Day 28

This weekend’s blog posts were sparse and untimely. Hopefully that won’t happen again.

While Sunday was a good day overall, it was, again, particularly uncomfortable walking around a conference, representing my company, forcing the smile on my face. I would have liked to be cavalier about the whole thing, refusing to smile, but sometimes you can’t.

We all have that thing that pulls us out. It could be a smile from a stranger, it could be a note or email from a friend, it could even be a thing that we read/saw/played that was just, well, enjoyable.

For me, it’s talking about my job. For some reason, talking about the process of writing (from creation to publication) always makes me smile. Well, maybe not always, but most of the time. As much as I want this blog to be a reveal of what it’s like to go through some of this stuff in my head, the sheer fact that it’s written, sometimes links to that passion, that joy. But there is a reason why writing therapy is beginning to be used more and more in the world of depression-counseling. That sharing of ourselves, in any number of ways, reveals us, our true “us,” to others. Even if no one reads it, we read it.

You can’t write without reading what you are writing. There may be some way of doing it where you don’t necessarily over-analyze it, but we still internalize the external expression of our inner selves. And I wonder if that’s part of the reason why writing can work as a therapy.

So if you’re blue, or if you see too much grey, or if sometimes you just can’t shake the funk (and not the George Clinton type of funk), talk, write, draw, or film your way into an externalization of those feelings. Maybe it’s a little easier to deal with things after you’ve “vomited” them up on the page, so to speak. Or maybe someone reads/views/experiences it and that shared connection can help the clouds part.

Share.

  • physical self: 10 minutes of cardio
  • mental self: listened to some great talks on the process of writing and creation
  • emotional self: pretty much neglected today.
  • spiritual self: reflected on the wisdom in the Bible… Good stuff.

Day 27

Sorry for the late post.

I spent pretty much all of my Saturday at a conference, glad-handing and smiling at all of the people interested in publishing, writing, etc. It was pretty good, but at the end of the day, it felt like I was shot out of a cannon—I was spent.

When I got back home, there were certain things that I needed to do, but I just couldn’t. I wanted to fall through the couch as I collapsed, hopefully going all the way down to something sturdy that wouldn’t let me fall anymore.

Mostly I just wanted to turn my brain off.

I watched a rerun on television, and I slowly felt it all collapsing. My brain exhaled, and before I knew it, I was asleep.

That’s it. A day that went well and ended. Can’t complain. Hopefully tomorrow’s post will be more inspiring.

But I’m not holding my breath.

 

  • Physical self: 2 minutes of cardio. Yup. 2 whole minutes
  • Mental self: this is where I got my workout. I listened to some panel-discussions about being an entrepreneur and about the changing form of fiction
  • Emotional self: nope. No time.
  • Spiritual self: nope. No time.

Day 26

So this was one of those days where my list grew as the day got shorter. It’s inevitable that it happens like that occasionally, but it’s not something necessarily that I want to see happen again.

I wish I had something uber-positive to say about the whole experience, but I don’t.

Sometimes you have to plug away at the mundanity, just as you sometimes have to plug away at the joyful aspects of life.

I can’t quite shake the notion that the rise in depression, even self-diagnosed cases (or maybe especially self-diagnosed cases) is somehow linked to the rise in equating our social, cultural, and personal reality into something akin to cogs of a machine or pieces of green paper that are exchanged with others for services rederred.

Stay with me here.

More and more importance is being placed on our ability to make money, increase money, and turn ideas and hastily-made artifacts into money. Our time is freely given to our employers, and when we get home, we spend more of our time increasing the worth of the Big Six by watching content on one of their avenues of communication (if that statement means nothing to you, just know that most of the content that you enjoy, be it television programming, books, radio, or some other expression of creative content, comes from one of the Big Six companies out there).

We no longer live in an industrial society where we are expected to turn 60 or 80 hours of our weeks into widgets. Unfortunately or fortunately, we use more and more of that time how we see fit, sitting on our couches or hunched over computer terminals watching other lives play out.

Feeling rather scattered today. Too much consuming, not enough producing.

  • Physical self: 12 minutes of cardio
  • Mental self: Read some great articles online about the Occupy Together movements across the nation (if you think that news coverage is light, you might want to reconsider your expectations for what is news)
  • Emotional self: started to confront some of my emotions as internal aspects of my own being (as that makes more sense to me, hopefully I can communicate that to you)
  • Spiritual self: I prayed. To no one and everyone in particular. It felt like meditating.

Day 25

I woke up in the morning, ready to drop-kick the day in the face. Except for working out—that wasn’t happening.

The day started reasonably well after that. Two breakfasts, light traffic, etc. etc.

Nothing too major happened. One of my meetings went better than expected, the next one was easily a top 5 ever. Pretty sweet.

But the big thing happened at night when I went to the airport to pick up my mom. I love my mom. She’s a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher, but other than that, she’s awesome. She used to come and visit me and my wife, now she comes to visit her grandson. Which is totally reasonable.

She talked my ear off for a while, and eventually, I dropped her off at the house at the bright and early time of 2:00am. My usual schedule of early to bed, early to rise will just have to be disrupted a bit. I guess we all have those little happy inconveniences from time to time, and there are worse things in the world than having an extra pair of hands to play with your son. So I start on a path of ten days of Nanna in the house, ten days of watching my son get spoiled, ten days of watching my wife slowly and surely fold under the pressure of my mom eroding her confidence as a stay-at-homer.

Here goes nothing.

  • Physical self: neglected…
  • Mental self: researched a little about transmedia story-telling (on a not-so-related note: this is a great time to love content and creative endeavors)
  • Emotional self: I should probably start dealing with my father issues now that my mom is in town… Oh god.
  • Spiritual self: Breathe, breathe, breathe. I suppose I’ll have to do some extra meditating as I remember that I was once raised on Jesus stories, and my mom really thinks that my son should, too.

Day 24

Okay, so this day was a blur. I remember sitting in front of the computer screen a lot, trying to shake the cobwebs that almost instantly form in my brain after looking at emails, emails, emails.

I wonder if there’s something there that is similar to the “web” metaphor. Probably not.

Anywho, my wife surprised me and brought our kid to work during my lunch break, which was the best thing ever. It’s hard to get things out of perspective when you watch a two-year old gleefully slide down a slide, grinning ear to ear. It reminded me that I used to experience that kind of joy on occasion.

So I got home, we did our thing, everyone went to bed, and I picked up the old six-string. My fingers are rusty these days, not like they were back in my carefree college days, but I picked out a little tune that I still remember. I breathed while playing, constantly reminding myself that it’s not the quality of the chords, but the joy of playing. And I thought of my son sliding down the slide.

He didn’t think, “Oh, man, I could do that better.” He was too busy being caught up in the joy of playing.

Go play. It’s fun.

  • physical self: 10 minutes of cardio
  • mental self: totally neglected… no judgments
  • emotional self: I wrote down some feelings that I’ve been having lately and reflected on my possible objectification of those things. I also tried to remind myself that it’s not the thing, but what I bring to the thing that’s important.
  • spiritual self: 5 minutes of QiGong and breathing.

Day 23

Ahhhh, what a day it was.

Not quite a manic day, and generally speaking, the work that I produced wasn’t that great, but it was passable. When it got close to time to clock out, I reluctantly brought some work home with me.

It was better than sitting at my cubicle and mindlessly click-clacking away at the computer as silence reared its ugly head.

When I got out to my car, everything seemed to be going pretty well. I cranked the car, put in the appropriate deal-with-the-traffic CD, and off I went. But the car didn’t 100% cooperate. It was pulling a little bit, and felt a little weird, so I rolled the window down, despite the rain, and peaked out to see a flat rear tire.

Shit.

I pulled over and started to work. This was done with no emotion; it was something that just had to be done. Actually, that was the single fastest tire-change that I had ever been involved with, and there was a certain pride in getting my shirt and tie dirty. A young guy pulled up and asked, “You need any help, sir?”

Sir?

Was I really that old? I thanked him and declined, as I felt like I was fully capable at this point in my life of changing my own tire. He waved as he pulled away, and I quickly finished and jumped in the car to drive the dangerously small doughnut-infused car home.

My wife apologized profusely (I guess on behalf of the universe, since it wasn’t her fault that someone had thrown out a screw on the ground somewhere between home and work), and asked me repeatedly if I needed anything. I kept refusing, realizing that nothing that happened was reason to get emotional. It was just work that needed to be done.

I think that there might be value to thinking like that. Sometimes you just need to get shit done. Emotionless, devoid of feeling, almost like a robot. And in the end, you can feel good about doing some work.

So here’s to the robot in all of us—may it constantly be there for you when you just need to get stuff done.

  • physical self: 10 minutes of cardio, followed by 23 push-ups (23!!!!!)
  • mental self: finished two books that had been on my desk for months, subtly reminding me that I hadn’t quite read all that they had to offer
  • emotional self: recognized and integrated the robot in my brain
  • spiritual self: mindfully reflected on the kid that pulled over, offering to help me out. Reminds me that there are good people out there.

Day 22

“[expletive deleted] you, you [expletive deleted]ing [expletive deleted]!”

That was how my day went while sitting in traffic. And then I thought, dude, you need to breathe.

So in and out went the breaths, one, two, three. And traffic wasn’t so bad after that. Actually, it was worse, but it didn’t seem that bad.

Pavlov taught us that we can condition certain responses in dogs, and we later realized that those sorts of things happen to us. Every time I smell train tracks, I’m brought back to the smell of Six Flags, and I am instantly reminded of the joy of being a kid, filled with wonder as I walk through the Six Flags of my memory (it should be noted that there are no long lines, humidity or rides under maintenance in my memory of that place).

So I realized that we can hack our brains, if we try hard enough. Now, when I’m stuck in traffic, I think of my son laughing. I breathe, three breaths, so when I see some butthead in a car much more expensive than mine weaving in and out of traffic and causing a ruckus on the road, I can smile as I think of the uncontrolled, body-shaking laughter that my two-year old can muster. And it doesn’t seem that bad.

So, here’s to your hacking!

  • physical self: 10 minutes of core work in the morning
  • mental self: I read some stuff online at booksquare. You should, too. It’s fascinating stuff
  • emotional self: began hacking the brain
  • spiritual self: 10 minutes of breathing in the morning.

Day 21

What a day. This was one of those days where the sun seems to shine a little brighter, birds sing, etc.

It may have been a manic day.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I was struck by the power of the mind and how it can potentially dictate what we see, depending on what we bring to the table so to speak.

I think that there’s really two worlds out there: the objective world (you know, the one that we all experience together) and the one that we see through our subjective lens. This is the one that is fascinating.

If I were to walk down the street and see a quarter laying on the ground, I might think several things. It might be proof that it is actually my lucky day, it might be evidence that people don’t care about money anymore, or it could be just another of any possible random things that could happen at any given time. The way I perceive the thing depends on my mood. The quarter laying on the ground is obvious; it’s objective truth. The thing that changes it is what I bring to the thing being observed.

This is what’s frustrating about depression. When the clouds descend on our minds, we let them dictate the clouds in the sky. If we’re down in the dumps, sometimes it doesn’t matter what the weather is; we’re still going to see it as a bad day. Losing a fantasy football match only matters if we let it matter. That quarter brings emotion only if we are in a mood that allows emotion to come up.

My challenge for the next few days: mindfully dictate the beauty that I see. It’s there, but only if I let myself experience it as such.

Be well and happy.

  • physical self: neglected today
  • mental self: read about technology and privacy online (scary stuff out there)
  • emotional self: dream journaling (I won’t get into it, but let’s just say that there was Christmas involved as well as in-laws)
  • spiritual self: lots of controlled breathing throughout the day

Day 20

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and able to produce a decent level of dopamine.

I have to say that Saturday was kind of one of those days where I walked around, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But I guess whoever up there that was wearing the shoe, had it tied pretty tight, because it never fell. If you want to really use that metaphor…

I was able to walk around with a smile for the most part of the day, and it felt pretty nice. I’m not sure if it is because the working out is starting to catch up with me, or if it’s all the early to bed stuff, but something seems to be working.

A friend of mine on Facebook said the above quote the other day, and I laughed, but the more that I thought about it, the more sense it made, not on a purely physical level, but on a deeper level.

Another friend of mine who just got done with the manuscript for his second (second!) novel, told me that he couldn’t write until the sun had set, which it did pretty much every single day. Then he was (his words here) “able to embrace his lunar aspect, letting the creativity flow.” That’s all fine and good, but what about us whose jobs prevent us from totally embracing our lunar and creative aspects?

Well, I’m tired of being at the whims of the celestial landscape. I’m tired of being at the whims of the seasons. I’m tired of going, tail tucked between my legs, to another therapist, explaining what happens in my brain when fall starts, and some part of me goes into mourning along with our terrestrial mother. I’m tired of mindlessly walking through life, being controlled by the classically-conditioned responses of a kid who was raised a Baptist. And I’m tired of not being a little more positive.

I have been a pretty addictive person through most of my life, and I’m tired of thinking that it’s a bad thing. Instead, I should try and remember that addictive people are just people who are able to make habits quickly. And habits are merely synapses in your brain that form close bonds. Therefore, I’m going to try to make this “bad” thing what it really is: something to be grateful for.

So on that note: Bring it, world. I think today’s going to be a good day.

  • Physical self: One 15-minute jog, 10-minute cardio later
  • Emotional self: I cried from watching tv; not sure if that counts
  • Mental self: Pretty neglected
  • Spiritual self: 10-minutes of meditation, and tried to be mindful all day