Why do you keep passing the open windows?

window

Scoff if you must (and some of you will), but this blog is a community of sorts, and many of us have had a tough time lately. One thing that continues to amaze me, not just at Balloon Juice but in life generally, is the range and diversity of how people deal with anger, sorrow and pain.

Some people drink themselves into a stupor. Some people eat or smoke too much. Some people loll in front of the TV until they nod off. Some people read all the time. Some people create – food, art, prose, poetry, needlepoint, knitting, etc. Some people focus on their families or pets. Some people shop. Some people pursue romance or at least sex. Some people drive around aimlessly in a car or on a bike or wander around in the dark on foot.

With the exception of knitting, I’ve engaged in every single one of those activities at some point as a way to convince myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Obviously some of these activities are more healthy than others, but I’m not sure it’s the activities themselves that are important as a way to get through a shitty time but rather the distraction they provide.

Those are all ways to stay occupied and/or distracted, so “stay occupied and/or distracted” is the underlying strategy. Maybe every coping strategy is a species of this, but I’m not convinced that’s true. For example, I’ve been on a few heinous hamster wheels of suck in my life where I had to force myself to stop just occupying my time and make a radical change to disembark. I had to leave that horrible job or get out of that toxic relationship, etc., even though it was scary as hell at the time.

That was the only way back to (relative) mental health. I’m not suggesting that making a radical life change can cure clinical depression, which I believe is a chemical imbalance that is just as much a medical condition as diabetes. But I think we do have the power, in some cases, to change our lives in a way that can jolt us out of feeling so sad or angry or downtrodden or ashamed. And doing so can improve our overall mental health, just as lifestyle changes can mitigate the course of certain types of diabetes.

So even though I’m afraid of where this thread might go, I’m going to ask anyway: Have you ever found yourself languishing on some horrible hamster wheel of suck and found a way to change your thinking and/or actions enough to get off of it? In a world that is so filled with sadness, impermanence and pain, what makes you keep passing the open windows?

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195 replies
  1. 1
    The Red Pen says:

    This post on Free Republic brightened my week.

    Not for everyone, but some should find it refreshing.

  2. 2
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    The fear of letting others down is what keeps me going. Or the rage at the fear of letting others down, depending on how much it’s weighing on me at the time.

  3. 3
  4. 4
    gogol's wife says:

    This is not going to be a popular answer, but at the two worst times of my life I have been helped by liberal Protestant ministers and liberal Protestant congregations who helped me engage with the teachings of Christ in a serious, complex, not simple-minded way.

    Also family, friends, pets, music (both listened to and played), and beloved work.

    But I have to say that I have never suffered from clinical depression, just bad events in life.

  5. 5

    Sometimes you just go on because there is no other choice.

  6. 6
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    I’m actually looking for one right now. I graduated from college in May and am pretty rudderless. After putting it off for about 2 years too long, I finally started seeing a psychiatrist and counselor, was diagnosed with depression, and started anti-depressants a week ago. No big effects yet, so maybe in a month I’ll feel different.

    I have too many days that are just sleepwalking through my part time job and then aimlessly going online and reading stuff I’ve already read til it’s time to fall asleep. I’ve been trying to throw myself more heavily into my writing and art and produce something actually worth sharing. Aside from that, I’ve always had a rich imagination, and just having a real deeply felt inner world and inner life has helped me through some rough spots.

  7. 7
    Gaffa says:

    I have suffered from severe depression all my life. It’s been 10 years since my last date (a relationship which ended with me being stood up at the altar). I’ve never been above the poverty level in my life. I’m currently unemployed and, thanks to North Dakota law, apparently not going to get unemployment insurance. I’m trying to find a job, but I haven’t enjoyed life in, like, probably ever.

    I have no tricks to passing the windows. I just concentrate on the knowledge that each day means one day closer to the day I die. And that is where I find my happiness.

  8. 8
    MomSense says:

    Wow, that is a great post and an interesting question. I do think that at different times in my life I have employed different coping strategies. The way I dealt with crisis as a teen and adult before kids was much different. I am one of those people who just power through things. I tend to do what needs doing and only later do the emotions catch up. I also know that I need to exercise and need to create beauty whether through knitting or gardening or cooking–it is helpful for me to have something creative to do. When I was a dancer and choreographer I could put all of my emotions into my art. It is a little tougher now that I don’t have that.

  9. 9
    shawn says:

    I was pretty miserable a few years ago, and one day I just walked over to my boss, told him that I hated my job there, and was ready to move on to something else. Fortunately he was understanding about it, and we agreed that I would stay at the company for a couple of months to transition my projects and responsibilities to other people, as well as to give me time to find another job.

    Even though I was stuck at the same desk for another two months, it wasn’t anywhere near as frustrating or miserable, because I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  10. 10
    gogol's wife says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    I’m surprised to hear that. You are a terrific writer. Didn’t you write one of the historic rants of all time on BJ?

  11. 11
    NickT says:

    @The Red Pen:

    The weariness you feel is triggered by GOP betrayal. Now, in addition to the enemies in front of us, we have to divide our energy and forces to deal with the attack from the rear

    I love the smell of GOP self-napalming in the morning. It ain’t bad in the afternoon, either.

    As for the question of how to deal with dark times:

    “In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.” – H. L. Mencken

  12. 12
    Rustydude says:

    Sartre supposedly said, “People are hell.” I find that people are the cure. The alternative is to huddle in some basement, alone, closed off from everything. Forcing myself to socialize with others is the one and only cure from depression, for me.

  13. 13
    shortstop says:

    John Irving FTW. Nice.

    But serious answer: I have gotten exceptionally good at lasering in and worrying about what some other people are going through so I don’t have to think about what troubles me. That is not altruism but rank avoidance.

  14. 14
    Gex says:

    I can’t say that I know what has been keeping me going, during this year which is easily my worst ever. On top of a history of clinical depression and suicide attempts.

    There have been some very dark thoughts and urges, but I have managed to keep rolling with things somehow. Maybe enough of me knows that this WILL pass. Maybe the idea of abandoning Casey makes anything destructively drastic a non-starter. I guess I try not to question it, in case it stops working.

  15. 15
    gogol's wife says:

    @shortstop:

    It’s altruism too.

  16. 16
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I think he’s a little miffed at me right now. We took a short vacation over the weekend and when we returned, he’s standoffish. And overnight he destroyed a roll of paper towels. There were dead paper towels strewn all over the house in various stages of shred. That’s usually an indication he’s dealing with anger issues..

  17. 17
    EconWatcher says:

    I’ve found that since we had kids, I get depressed much less often. I’m constantly worried, often exhausted, sometimes frustrated, ocassionally pissed, but very rarely depressed.

    I’m sure I’m still a selfish jerk, but having someone or something that is more important to you than yourself seems to change everything. I’ts a cliche, I’m sure, but it’s really true.

  18. 18
    cvstoner says:

    The vast majority of stuff we worry about is out of our control, so find whatever happiness you can in the moment, and let the rest take care of itself.

  19. 19
    Bruce Lawton says:

    In my 70+ years I seem to have made it through some very painful things by keeping things honest in what I say or do or think. If I need a laugh or a cry I do just that or maybe just be alone for a while. Honesty and openness has taken me from infant to patriarch with my head still held high. Drastic changes in jobs and location have occurred along the way, almost by accident. No fear of surprises helps too.

  20. 20
    Glenda says:

    @The Red Pen: Wait, I’m supposed to be getting free food, rent, and cell phones? What am I doing wrong?

    And do they really believe that???

  21. 21
    Haydnseek says:

    Passing the open window is easy. Not passing it would require energy, purpose, and the ability to overcome the incredible inertia that only gets stronger year after year. I used to be an artist. I used to be a musician. I used to be in a relationship that defined my life. I just couldn’t maintain/sustain this. In spite of all that, I still consider myself to be incredibly fortunate. I’m functional. My close friends love me, and that is priceless. It could be so much worse, and it probably will be, because sometimes I just sit, waiting for it to become that way. I live in the LA area, and feeling like this is like waiting for an earthquake. I’ve been through those, and even though my home was destroyed by one, at least it was understandable as it was a natural phenomenon. This is different. I have a degree in psychology, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get a grip on this. I don’t usually get into my personal life here, but this really struck a chord. Plus, I really like Betty Cracker. Topics like this are one of the reasons why. I don’t post as much as I used to, but I think this might be a very valuable thread. I hope so.

  22. 22
    negative 1 says:

    @gogol’s wife: I think it’s a just fine answer. That’s what it’s supposed to be for, IMHO. And reminding people to pay it forward if you’ve benefitted and someone asks, not to use it as a cudgel with which to judge others.
    As for the rest of it — I’ve gone the substance abuse route, the sheer inertia route and the mental health professional route. The first is surprisingly effective, for a while, then very bad. The second is a great coping mechanism but ends you up on the hamster wheel (just get up, make a schedule, stick to the schedule, don’t question, wash, rinse, repeat). The mental health professional route is the way to go. If you are suffering from a mental illness of any kind (depression included) it’s really hard to trust your instincts as to what’s really causing it, i.e. your job, partner, or just your f’d up chemicals. I don’t doubt that there are many times in a person’s life that making a switch can really make a difference, but you’ve got to trust your inner voice for that to work. If you can’t trust that voice, then it’s tough to realistically assess it.

  23. 23
    Amir Khalid says:

    Only one more day of Ramadan Mubarak, and then I’ll be able to eat lunch again. It might be impious, but that thought does cheer me up.

    @The Red Pen:
    Some commenter on that post has posted the lyrics to the Enya song from The Lord of The Rings. About the dark and lonely days ahead for the Fellowship of The … Right, I guess.

  24. 24
    shortstop says:

    @gogol’s wife: Thanks, but it’s also control freakery, which I forgot to mention earlier. Let’s not give me too much credit.

  25. 25
    raven says:

    My ex went into a deep clinical depression after we split (not all of it was attributable to the breakup). I tried to help for a while and one of our good friends told me I couldn’t save her, she had to save her self. She was right and I got out of the way. I saw her this spring for the first time in 10 years and she is doing well. Her situation was much like Styron describes in Darkness Visible. Heavy shit but it can be coped with.

  26. 26
    BGinCHI says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: That’s what Beckett said, and he knew from darkness.

  27. 27
    E says:

    Lao Tsu, Kierkegaard, the Greeks, and a big bookshelf. It’s avoidance disguised as self-enrichment. Sometimes walking helps, if you can make it out of the house. Unlike some others I do not get much solace in the presence of others, unless I get to choose my company carefully. I have had some recent, limited success locating others with similar avoidance strategies as my own and they tend to be pretty interesting people (to me).

  28. 28
    shortstop says:

    @Amir Khalid: I wouldn’t call it impious. Apious, perhaps, if we can make up that word. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with that thought.

  29. 29
    BGinCHI says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: If you can afford it, get into analysis, or at least psychotherapy. The former saved my life. It takes time and commitment, but it works. I would never have gotten so many things accomplished professionally, plus found a great wife and settled into the happiest period of my life if I hadn’t done hard, hard work on myself.

  30. 30
    Savage Henry says:

    Might seem simple and cliche, but count your blessings. Look around and you’ll probably find a lot of people who are worse of than you are.

  31. 31
    Ruckus says:

    Betty
    As you say we almost all go through crap in life and we cope in different ways. Mine used to be to ignore whatever was happening until it blew up completely. Then you have to act. I used to drink a bit to help me ignore as well. Not normally commode hugging, knee dragging drunk but still. One day a Dr asked me how many drinks per week. My answer was 4-5/week but the real answer was more like twice that. Woke me the hell up. I was majorly depressed. I got professional help. Probably the best thing I ever did. Took a few years to figure out all my shit and learn to deal with it much better but it was worth every moment.
    Life basically sucks with a few grand moments thrown in to make it interesting. Learning what normal is helps a lot. I think our culture has a lot to do with people thinking that normal is the high points and if you don’t have enough of them often enough the problem is you. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have grand hopes, just that grand expectations are rarely met.

  32. 32
    Ericsmom says:

    I do battle with depression and I’ve been in recovery for 28 years. In the last two years I have had to really reflect on what is important and what isn’t. August of 2011 my husband, Michael was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, he died last October. He was only 43. Now my aunt, my mother’s twin has been diagnosed with stage four. Sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed is too much to bear. Some days I question everything, then I look at my son and realize there are other priorities and I am grateful. He is beautiful and kind and and I don’t know how he happened, because if there was payback I would be in serious trouble, I think to myself I must have done something right because he is in my life.

  33. 33
    Belafon says:

    @NickT: Replace the party in the first block, and that could be a Daily Kos or FDL post.

  34. 34
    chopper says:

    passing the open windows

    it gets so easy to narrow these eyes, all right.

  35. 35
    raven says:

    @Ruckus: My situation was similar except, I learned that I was drinking very day to slow down so I could be with other people. Once I got away from booze I realized it didn’t really mean shit to me.

  36. 36

    I had to be dragged off the hamster wheel of suck by friends and family. @EconWatcher: agreed. Pets do the same thing.

  37. 37
    Gaffa says:

    The other coping mechanism I’ve learned is to never hope.

  38. 38
    EconWatcher says:

    @BGinCHI:

    This may be a heretical thing to say, but when I was going through a really dark period after a personal loss some years ago, I tried therapy with several different therapists. I found that talking about my problems just caused them to seem more profound, all-consuming and insurmountable. I got better when I dumped the therapy and just really focused on doing things and getting on with my life.

    I’m not suggesting this for anyone else, and I probably wasn’t in that chemical rut that requires at least partly a chemical response. But FWIW.

  39. 39
    Thunderbird says:

    How I keep going is by telling myself that as relieving as it would be for me to just check out, the amount of pain it would inflict on friends & loved ones I leave behind is more than I could imagine. So I just trudge along, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, dosing with beer & cigarettes.

  40. 40
    gbear says:

    Here’s one of the responses you didn’t want:

    I’ve been stuck on the hamster wheel for about four years and haven’t been able to find a way off. Can’t quit my job and can’t afford to sell my house and move. I’ve been on depression and anxiety meds for a long time (finally had an episode that landed me in the lockdown ward for a day last year) and have had really horrid reactons when we’ve tried to change to new meds, so it’s been kind of a dull slog in terms of general outlook. I spend weekends wanting to get out of the house but not making it thru the door. I’m hurting…

    About 5 years ago I bought a scooter and that seemed to bring some fun to my life, and I still enjoy record collecting, but don’t have the funds to indulge much any more. I’m starting to realize that a lot of good used records are showing up in the bins because people a few years older than I are dumping their collections as they move into retirement homes. I’m about 5 years away from being able to afford retirement and I’m not sure I can survive the hampster wheel for that long. Something will break before I retire…

  41. 41
    jacy says:

    This is going to sound lame, but when I find myself spinning away into the darkness (I’m some stripe of bipolar, so this comes and goes) I involve myself in a narrative, whether it be really good books or really good televisions programs. The thing is, I need to know what happens next. I need to solve the puzzle or see the final scene. People infuriate you or let you down or break your heart, situations collapse upon themselves and turn into disasters great and small, your own physiology betrays you in ways beyond your comprehension and control, but a good story will take you somewhere else. It doesn’t transport you forever, but sometimes it’s long enough to keep you from tipping over into the chasm that looks so inviting compared to the the moment-to-moment slog of just surviving the damnable, unending minutes and days and months when everything goes black.

    People belittle television all the time, but, man, there have been times in my life where the thing that kept me going was the next episode of something I really was invested in. Or picking up a James Lee Burke novel or a Stephen King novel or a Carol O’Connell novel or a really fine collection of short stories for the first or second or third time and just immersing myself in it.

    I guess for me, someone else’s narrative is the cure when mine seems to be unbearable.

  42. 42
    BGinCHI says:

    @EconWatcher: If it was face to face psychotherapy I’m not too surprised.

  43. 43
    Haydnseek says:

    @gbear: I enjoy record collecting as well, and I’ve noticed the same thing. The first great wave of used records happened when everybody dumped their LP’s and replaced them with CD’s. Now we see the second wave. Chasing used vinyl helps, as it takes us out of ourselves. What do you collect? I would love to know.

  44. 44
    EconWatcher says:

    @BGinCHI:
    This is a dumb question, but what other kind is there?

  45. 45
    Richard Fox says:

    Yes, well… This post has great resonance with me. Just lost my job after 18 years, respected photo editor for travel guide covers, sold paintings / watercolors on the side.. And now, not sure what I am doing. At all. Oddly right after the famed Tunch was struck down everything went to hell for me as well. Not health-wise thank FSM, but so many other normal parts of my life disrupted. So… my response was to keep the vacation to California still happening, invested in a slew of watercolor paper / supplies, prepping for a trip to LA/ Santa Barbara, and connect with doing something I deeply love doing, painting like a kid. Of course the adult in me is still present.. At same time prepping a new résumé, told by a resume coach I need to be “branded” which brought up many odd yet amusing images in my mind’s eye.. And just trying to move on. Also went back to the gym. So at 53 I am fighting the only way I know. Reconnecting with myself, giving myself hugs, and hoping I can manage to keep my life as it was, in some fashion. Egads.

  46. 46
    DFH no.6 says:

    @The Red Pen: Interesting, don’t know about “refreshing”.

    Conservatives are just not the same as me, and I don’t get their persecution-complex, I Got Mine Fuck You mindset.

    At all.

    Buncha pissed-off Know Nothings, even the intelligent and well-educated ones

    Don’t get it, never will..

    As for Betty Cracker’s question, I’m with Just Some Fuckhead.

    The fear of letting others down is primarily what keeps me going, too.

    I am very fortunate to never have experienced serious depression, clinical or otherwise.

    But existential angst? It’s what’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snacks inside my skull.

  47. 47
    ruemara says:

    I have two cats that really need me and seem to like me. I also don’t fold that easily. But as I get older and things look amazingly bleak for me, I have less ability to keep on moving. Jury is still out.

  48. 48
    pacem appellant says:

    Antidepressants to start with. Combined with finding a job and realizing that being stay-at-home wasn’t for me. Therapy. Then finding a more meaningful job. All the while having a loving partner and children who depend on me. That was two years ago when I finally got on the road to recovery. Now that I’m not constantly swimming in molasses, I take all that negative energy and pour it into my writing. And I keep taking the drugs and seeing to therapist to make sure I don’t slide back into depression.

  49. 49
    raven says:

    @Richard Fox: I crashed and burned at 43. I guess I was lucky, got free shrink services while in grad school, finished, got a job, then another and didn’t look back.

  50. 50
    muddy says:

    Mostly I can’t stand people saying to me, “Have you tried X super-obvious thing?” and so I make sure I have done/am doing the obvious things already just so I don’t have to hear it. Lifetime of having to justify myself constantly probably led to this attitude.

    I know people that just drive me wild having the same problem for 20 years and won’t do any of the obvious things or even anything at all, but want you to listen to it like it’s fresh that whole time. In my house you are not allowed to complain of a headache while refusing aspirin/wev. You take it, you still have a headache, well now there is something to cry about.

    I have made great strides with head meds and therapy, and it delights me that family etc then think I am the crazy one because I have those things. They could sure use plenty of both, but since they don’t bother, then it doesn’t count. They’re just fine. O noes they ain’t.

    I guess fake it till you make it? I was suicidal for 43 years. It was a daily struggle, while bizarrely also being my best friend that I could always count on if things got too bad. Last year I suddenly realized, just randomly, that suicide was not something I cared to do. It was quite literally surprising, and I had to sit and think about that for a long while.

    I guess the head meds and therapy did something.

  51. 51
    pacem appellant says:

    @EconWatcher: Cognitive therapy plus antidepressants work well for me. To each their own. I’m glad you found what you need.

  52. 52
    Haydnseek says:

    @Richard Fox: It sounds like you have a good plan, and the strength to carry it out. I wish you the very best. If you haven’t been to Santa Barbara before, I think you’ll really like it. LA too, but I’m biased……

  53. 53
    Silver & Silkey says:

    Thank you for this thread, Betty. No time now, but will read it later.

  54. 54
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @jacy:

    I see a lot of my life in this post. It’s very well-said. I’m an english major and hope to be an author, so it comes with the territory, but I really do believe in the power of stories to give people meaning and hope.

  55. 55
    geg6 says:

    Have you ever found yourself languishing on some horrible hamster wheel of suck and found a way to change your thinking and/or actions enough to get off of it? In a world that is so filled with sadness, impermanence and pain, what makes you keep passing the open windows?

    Oh my, yes. At least twice that were quite serious points in my life.

    The first time was when I was stuck in a horrible situation at the local community college. It was the first place I ever worked in academia, after I got my master’s. My first job there was teaching social studies and literature to adults who were prepping the GED. I loved teaching them, especially history which they universally hated in high school and loved in my class. But it paid next to nothing and was only part time in the evenings. A couple of years later, a full-time position opened in disabled student services, so I applied and got that job and kept the GED evening job, too. But that was still very low pay, so I also took a job teaching an intro to US history course on Saturdays. Put all together, my pay for all these jobs was $15,000/year after 9 years (and this was in 1997, not 1967). In addition, I had a boss who was addicted to prescription medication and who handed out raises based on whether or not you had a partner who made what he called “good” money (which I did, at the time). And my immediate supervisor on the full-time job was an alcoholic who often spend the morning throwing up Jim Beam into her wastebasket in the cubicle next to mine. After one particularly infuriating annual evaluation, I was starting to despair that I’d ever get ahead and it led to what I now know was a pretty serious depression. What snapped me out of it, finally, was losing my temper, deciding to channel it into finding a better job and finally quitting. I ended moving completely out of my field and into community mental health. Another job I hated, but one I only held for six months before I got my dream job here.

    The second time was when my ex and I broke up back in 2004. I was a complete fucking mess. I drank a bunch. I slept around with some very young and sweet men. I partied like I was twenty again. And then I went home and cried. Finally, my current boss called me in and said he was concerned about me, not that my work had suffered but that he knew me pretty well and I wasn’t myself. I broke down in his office, admitted my depression, and by the next day, I started seeing a counselor for the depression. I stayed with her for about five months and she really got me through a very tough time. About a year later, I met my John (again, but that’s another happier story) and the rest is history.

  56. 56
    eemom says:

    @EconWatcher:

    I think he might mean that in psychoanalysis, you lie on the couch and don’t look at the therapist.

  57. 57
    Ben Cisco says:

    Mrs. Cisco. Couldn’t bear giving up on myself, and by extension, her.

    Also, being above ground instead of in it continues to appeal to me even when things are going crappy.

  58. 58
    The Red Pen says:

    @Glenda:

    And do they really believe that???

    Despite all evidence to the contrary., they believe that liberals, in general, are all welfare queens.

    The exceptions are “liberal elites” who are zillionaries who hate freedom. I can’t imagine that these people can make it through life without running into a liberal who obviously has a regular job, but somehow these people are invisible to them.

  59. 59
    something fabulous says:

    This very weekend, The Manfriend and I decided to take a break from the relationship. Which means I finally told him I needed a break while he takes some time to deal with some of his issues more directly. Took me months to do it, because yes, the inertia is so strong and attractive, as well as the draw to dealing with other people’s issues, mentioned above. The day to day slog becomes normal so fast, for so many of us, it appears.

    I’m hopeful that I already feel better, lighter, in some way and hope he will be too, soon. It’s sad, and a little lonely already, but mainly I’m so far noticing being irritated that I was willing to be in the slog for so long.

  60. 60
    Ruckus says:

    @gbear:
    I faced a similar place and tried to move on to something new. That blew up when the economy was tanked by our asshole financial betters and I ended up with nothing. No home, no job, 60+ so little prospects, no SO, only family left has less than me, I was down to $200.00, had to give up my dog because I could not feed him …
    That was approx 2yrs ago. Is my life better? Yes. A whole lot? Not really but I’ll take whatever I can. What has kept me going? I’m not really sure I can answer. Partly it is my expectations, partly it is the VA, partly it is the help I got years ago to understand my depression and how to deal with it, partly it is just being stubborn and wanting to ride that last wave instead of giving up. As Hawkeye said, “Don’t let the bastard win”

  61. 61
    Emma says:

    I don’t consider my situation a ‘hamster wheel’ but my work can be pretty stressful at times. Add aging parents and a cancer med that kicks my behind on a regular basis and it’s not exactly fantastic. But I have a job that pays well, which is better than most of my friends have, so I grit my teeth and bear it during those days where every joint aches and I’ve gotten yet another piece of evidence that my work is not exactly appreciated. Leaving the job is not an option, unless it is for a local job and here they are hen’s teeth around here.

    There are three things that save my sanity at times: a good book, the camera, and fan-fiction (writing and reading). But the real “what to do when it really, really hits and sunlight hurts” cure for me is learning something. Someone upthread called “the big bookshelf” avoidance disguised as enrichment. I find enrichment itself is important. Not to add to the resume or to add another skill to LinkedIn. Just to learn. A few years before his death, Goya was working in a new medium and he made this: Aun Aprendo.

    I am still learning.

    (edited several times because, hey)

  62. 62
    kindness says:

    Get out of what is killing you. Look for silver linings.

  63. 63
    BGinCHI says:

    @EconWatcher: Psychoanalysis. On the couch. Several varieties but all the Freudian versions share pretty much the same structure (with exceptions, such as the Lacanians). You go four or five times a week. It’s intense and sometimes frustrating, but it can be really life-changing. It was for me and quite a few of my friends. I first went in Toronto because it’s paid for by your healthcare (yay, single payer), then again in Buffalo with an analyst who was in training (he had been a psychotherapist for 20 years) so that I could afford it. Psychotherapy is a very, very pale imitation of real analysis. It helps some people but I don’t really think it’s the answer if you are in need.

  64. 64
    Steeplejack says:

    @Glenda:
    I liked the comment:

    Too bad our politicians are too spineless to defund all entitlement programs.

    If there was a way to have an It’s a Wonderful Life moment, I would love for this ’tard to wake up one day with his 80-year-old mother calling him in hysterics because her Medicare got canceled and her Social Security check isn’t coming.

    Yeah, I know. “But that’s different! I paid into that. That’s mine!”

  65. 65

    I’m in that place right now. I tried a therapist but it really didn’t seem to help much, then a couple of weeks ago I just had a thought that “I want to live”. After three years of wanting to die it was kind of a shock, like muddy said above. Now things are starting to seem better but it is still a struggle, for example I have to make myself eat – food just doesn’t sound good.

    I think I can get through this. I hope.

  66. 66
    BGinCHI says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Why not grad school? English prof and writer here who loves what he does. It’s a long road but lots of doors open along the way. If you want to talk about application stuff, I’m available.

  67. 67
    BGinCHI says:

    @eemom: Yes. That’s a major difference but the tip of the iceberg in terms of the differing structures between the two. They are not the same kind of therapy.

  68. 68
    raven says:

    @geg6: Have you read Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America’s Educationally Underprepared by Mike Rose?

  69. 69

    One thing that really helped me were kittehs, my real life kittehs, boss cat and zen cat, and ICHC. This thread needs a kitteh too, Purrsident Kitteh who catches no break.

  70. 70
    Ben Cisco says:

    @Glenda: What they lack in logic they make up for in pure, unadulterated dumbassery.

  71. 71
    Ted & Hellen says:

    Clinically depressed probably since about age 5 or 6, with varying levels of intensity along the way of course.

    Found alcohol at about 14, and relied on that to get thru until 43 by which time I was almost dead.

    Antidepressants beginning about 37, but they don’t work so well when one is consuming mass quantities of booze at the same time. Who knew?

    And what a bummer to discover at 43 that coming out of the closet and getting real about who I am, going on antidepressants, making the most of talk therapy, quitting drinking, and following a program of recovery was only the freaking beginning. Because no closet, no booze, no false identity only means that now I’m sort of cleared up to start dealing with all the damage/neuroses/thought patterns/etc. that kicked in beginning at 5 or 6 years of age and still remain.

    So it’s a life long process/journey that will never reach some golden conclusion at which time I am perfect. Nobody’s perfect. Who knew?

    What comes to mind regarding Betty’s point about getting off the hamster wheel is that it’s crucial to recognize pain/crisis/depression for what it is and seize upon it as an opportunity for action…and then take it. Even if you have to put a bit of a chip on your shoulder, a bit of a “fuck you” attitude to convention to get you thru, because people HATE people who don’t stifle themselves to fit expectations. Oh, and seek out HELP.

  72. 72
    gene108 says:

    @The Red Pen:

    The comments are delicious. Wing-nut tears at tea time and the end of a work day really is something both savory and sweet.

  73. 73
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @BGinCHI:

    I’m definitely considering it. I think I’d do well in academia-fits my temperament. Money’s the big concern, obviously.

  74. 74
    Chaplain Weasle says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: I know what you mean… Just a little over a year ago, I finally got a good PTSD counselor, and a good PCP who listens to me and treats my health & pain problems… I still have shitty days, but its easier for me to get through days now.
    I’ve always had survivors guilt, because I came out of a shitty environment and made it through difficult times relatively whole… I always thought it was my imagination & my connection to just the “being-ness” of nature & the universe that kept me going, & my PTSD guy agrees… and I still retreat inside, to my inner world, where my imagination is reality, and I’m okay.
    Also, as others have stated here, I too find solace outside myself in the structured settings of Liberal Christianity & Judaism, Cao Dai, Buddhism, Hopi or other Native American faithpaths because that’s where the people I love & care for are, and the religion gives me a way to reach out from my inner world into their inner world, where they are. It gives me a way to interface in a deep & meaningful way about things that can be deep & philosophical, or funny & silly (sometimes even all the above). I get some people don’t like interfacing within that context/milieu because it makes them uncomfortable or it intimidates them… then I like to use art or music to interface with people.Me, I’m a BIG FAN of Dada & Jazz. That’s how I get about in the world, pretty much.

  75. 75
    Chaplain Weasle says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: I know what you mean… Just a little over a year ago, I finally got a good PTSD counselor, and a good PCP who listens to me and treats my health & pain problems… I still have shitty days, but its easier for me to get through days now.
    I’ve always had survivors guilt, because I came out of a shitty environment and made it through difficult times relatively whole… I always thought it was my imagination & my connection to just the “being-ness” of nature & the universe that kept me going, & my PTSD guy agrees… and I still retreat inside, to my inner world, where my imagination is reality, and I’m okay.
    Also, as others have stated here, I too find solace outside myself in the structured settings of Liberal Christianity & Judaism, Cao Dai, Buddhism, Hopi or other Native American faithpaths because that’s where the people I love & care for are, and the religion gives me a way to reach out from my inner world into their inner world, where they are. It gives me a way to interface in a deep & meaningful way about things that can be deep & philosophical, or funny & silly (sometimes even all the above). I get some people don’t like interfacing within that context/milieu because it makes them uncomfortable or it intimidates them… then I like to use art or music to interface with people.Me, I’m a BIG FAN of Dada & Jazz. That’s how I get about in the world, pretty much.

  76. 76
    Chaplain Weasle says:

    Spaghetti Lee: I know what you mean… Just a little over a year ago, I finally got a good PTSD counselor, and a good PCP who listens to me and treats my health & pain problems… I still have shitty days, but its easier for me to get through days now.
    I’ve always had survivors guilt, because I came out of a shitty environment and made it through difficult times relatively whole… I always thought it was my imagination & my connection to just the “being-ness” of nature & the universe that kept me going, & my PTSD guy agrees… and I still retreat inside, to my inner world, where my imagination is reality, and I’m okay.
    Also, as others have stated here, I too find solace outside myself in the structured settings of Liberal Christianity & Judaism, Cao Dai, Buddhism, Hopi or other Native American faithpaths because that’s where the people I love & care for are, and the religion gives me a way to reach out from my inner world into their inner world, where they are. It gives me a way to interface in a deep & meaningful way about things that can be deep & philosophical, or funny & silly (sometimes even all the above). I get some people don’t like interfacing within that context/milieu because it makes them uncomfortable or it intimidates them… then I like to use art or music to interface with people.Me, I’m a BIG FAN of Dada & Jazz. That’s how I get about in the world, pretty much.

  77. 77
    MomSense says:

    Has anyone heard anything from or about Higgs Boson’s Mate? I have been hoping that one of the FPers perhaps tried to contact him.

  78. 78
    gene108 says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Antidepressants beginning about 37, but they don’t work so well when one is consuming mass quantities of booze at the same time. Who knew?

    When I got out of inpatient, my brother and cousin were taking me out to lunch. I wanted a beer to celebrate, which seemed natural at the time being in my 20’s.

    One of them suggested to check the label on my meds because not everything goes well with beer and lo and behold there was a warning on the label not to drink.

    I tried having a drink at my cousin’s bachelor party a few weeks later and it was really unpleasant. I felt like someone was crunching up popcorn packing foam in my brain.

    Pretty much stopped drinking after that.

  79. 79
    Chaplain Weasle says:

    Dammit! Posting from my f*$%ing phone & it fuctup & triple posted… oh well, I’m going to listen to some Brian Eno and try to delete them…

  80. 80
    Capt. Seaweed says:

    I have taken up trawling CraigsList for cheap, tawdry sex. Successfully too, I might add. I feel much better about myself. There are people out there who are just as craven as I am. My new peers.

    True story.

  81. 81
    Keith G says:

    Like many boomers, work was my solace, my stand in for actual adjustment. If something didn’t feel right…simple…do more work = horrible hamster wheel of suck #1

    When after 20 + years that was not enough, recreational drugs and lots of them ( = horrible hamster wheel of suck #2) until the inevitable fall. Eventually, professional counseling and prescription anti depressants. And now weaned off them, being part of a great team doing service for others in hospice care is the gyroscope that keeps me on a favorable tact.

    Had I listened better to my better self and dealt with horrible hamster wheel of suck #1 by going with professional counseling right off, much time, heartache and money might have been saved.

    Have you ever found yourself languishing on some horrible hamster wheel of suck and found a way to change your thinking and/or actions enough to get off of it?

    Changing one’s thinking and/or actions can be a bit tricky while being right in the middle of the environment contributing to the hamster wheel’s presence. That is where a counseling professional comes in and earns their worth.

  82. 82
    BGinCHI says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: If you did well in undergrad and have solid relationships with profs who will write you good letters, you have a good chance of finding a PhD (or maybe an MA/PhD) program that will fund you. This can range from bare subsistence graduate assistantship to something that allows you to maybe eat meat a couple days a week. But what it gives you is a chance: you won’t pay tuition and if you can either work part time or take out small loans you can definitely do it.

    If you don’t look into it seriously and find out what your options are then it will definitely not happen. Don’t be negative about it until you know how it works and what the opportunities are.

    Just curious. Where did you go to undergrad?

  83. 83
    sparky says:

    @muddy: Suicide as a back-up plan has worked forever for me. There’s a surety in it that allows me to go on with the penultimate step of the present. Having a light at the end of the tunnel keeps the tunnel from having an overwhelming presence.

  84. 84
    Ruckus says:

    @raven:
    Someone up thread stated that substance abuse works great for a while, until it becomes a bigger problem than what started the whole mess.
    I agree with this.
    I’ve seen people with shitty lives, much worse than most of mine, who seem to do OK.
    I think expectations are a big part of that. Books and cinema can be used like booze and drugs and sex, to paint over the real issues. But that’s the point, we are afraid of reality. We are afraid of what we will find when we take away all the props and binkies, that life is actually pretty boring and routine. We jazz it up with skydiving and motorcycle racing and mountain climbing and skiing and… But day to day for the vast majority is boring, routine, work.

  85. 85
    BGinCHI says:

    @Capt. Seaweed: Come on, DougJ, you’re not even trying now.

  86. 86
    Chaplain Weasle says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Tehz make EVERYTHING better!
    we have two wonderful helper/therapy tehz.
    we also have a weird reclusive cat that only comes out to poop in her litter box or to let me know she loves me by biting me.
    saying it like that makes me realize it’s kind of a metaphor for life…

  87. 87
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @BGinCHI:

    University of Missouri-Columbia. Mostly got B’s, although I did better in the stuff I’d actually be interested in studying in. And I think there professors who would vouch for me. I’m currently living with my parents in suburban Chicago, so a school I could live at home and take the train to would be nice.

  88. 88
    gbear says:

    @Haydnseek: My collection is all over the place but still pretty much drums and guitars based. I’m a Beatle baby who grew up on ‘classic’ rock, collected a lot of stuff when things momentarily became less corpoate in the late 70’s and 80’s and have spent the last 20 years trying to not be ‘get off my lawn’ about new music.

    My absolute favorite listen right now is the six albums The Kinks put out in the mid-60’s up to Muswell Hillbillies. I think it has a lot to do with what jacy @ 39 said about getting into someone else’s narrative. Ray Davies is so good at creating complex stories in tuneful 3 minute bits.

    I also agree that this blog is a great place to get away into other people’s stories, even the angry freakouts from last weekend had so many great story/comments that I found them hard to leave.

    That said, I work at a computer all day long and I know it’s not healthy to be staring at a screen all evening. One of the things I talk about with my therapist is the need to get away from the damned computer as often as possible.

  89. 89
    worn says:

    Have you ever found yourself languishing on some horrible hamster wheel of suck and found a way to change your thinking and/or actions enough to get off of it? In a world that is so filled with sadness, impermanence and pain, what makes you keep passing the open windows?

    Yes, AL, right fucking now. It’s absolutely killing me inside. Fighting one’s own demons can be exhausting to the point of vergoing upon mental collapse. No new news there to a lot of out there, I’m sure.

    And what if one’s mind is such that one doesn’t even perceive the damn windows being passed are even open?

  90. 90
    kwAwk says:

    I’m learning that the secret is to love yourself enough to recognize that you have to find the things that make yourself happy and have the courage to let go of those that don’t.

    If you’re in a bad relationship that is driving you crazy. End it. If you’re in a house that is draining your finances to the point that you can’t afford to do the things that make you happy. Sell it and find a cheaper apartment. If you’re underwater, put a bow on it and give it to the bank.

    Don’t waste your time seeking approval of people who don’t give it freely when deserved and don’t waste your time looking for love from people who aren’t willing to give it when deserved.

    If you’re in a job you hate, move on to some other job that makes you happier. If you need to cut back on other expensive things in your life to do so, so be it.

  91. 91
    Richard Fox says:

    @raven: I was one of those people that had a job I really enjoyed, and then at the end had downsizing, divested product lines.. long story short I tried reinventing myself to go along with the changes, but not enough it seems to maintain the position I had.
    Regardless I do try to keep an open mind, just wish I was more tech-savvy. But I promised myself not to fear stuff I don’t know. And that is tough as sometimes I honestly don’t know I can handle what employers might find attractive in the current environment. But I do have many strengths folks value– a great eye, photographic type memory, deep reservoirs of knowledge, and respect in my field.. so we’ll see. I am happy Raven that you were able to surmount the hardships and move on. That’s life, yes?

  92. 92
    Chaplain Weasle says:

    @kwAwk: Amen brotha! (Or siesta!) ;)

  93. 93
    Hawes says:

    Early to mid 20s. Underemployed, alone in LA, living in a shitty apartment with a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. Depression, but pretty much relieved once I started teaching and found a job with meaning and rewards. Oh and a woman who eventually married me.

    Right now is the hardest time in my life. My eldest son – who is more precious to me than anything – is suffering from anxiety, depression, ODD, ADHD, dyslexia… fuck if we know what he’s really dealing with, but he ended the year on homebound tutoring because the school couldn’t handle him anymore.

    It’s exhausting – mentally, emotionally and physically – but I’m not depressed, because I don’t have time to be.

    Anyway, was this article mentioned? It seems to suggest we’d be crazy not to be insane:
    http://www.salon.com/2013/07/3.....y_partner/

  94. 94
    raven says:

    @Ruckus: Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

  95. 95
    raven says:

    @Richard Fox: Yup, one must adapt.

  96. 96
    BGinCHI says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: We have a good MA program if you are interested. You can even take a few classes as a student-at-large and then decide whether you want to do something else or stay and apply them to the degree (you have to get admitted at that point). If you want I’ll set you up with an appointment with our grad advisor, who is aces. There are obviously other options around, but you at least have the opportunity here of asking me about it and getting the straight dope (so to speak). Our tuition is low and the quality of the department is very high. You’ll have to trust me on that but I wouldn’t put it out here if it weren’t true.

    Let me know if you want some more info and contact stuff.

  97. 97
    I am not a kook says:

    Uh. This is very uncomfortable for me, but I’ll share. I’ve been depressive on and off most of my life. My marriage ended about 3.5 years ago because I became too hard to live with, depressed and angry for various reasons. First year after that, I basically drank every day and dragged myself to work in a kind of panic mode. Then I quit drinking and switched to “medical” mj. First just weekends, but then most nights. Quit that a couple of times when it stopped being entertaining but went back because it kept me distracted. It finally started to make me so stupid for days after the last toke that I’ve again given it up. Jumped to a crazy new job a year ago that I quit a month ago because it made me sicker. Still haven’t really seriously looked for another.

    Been in therapy for year and a half this round, and I’m *finally* starting to break down some vile shit in my head. Got the house cleaned last week, still working on it. Haven’t gotten laid in a year, don’t really have friends. But my kids are awesome and know I love them.

    But you know what? Life is still worth living. I’m exploring some new creative outlets, woodworking and designing things for my own use and amusement. Need to get my shit together for a new job soon. So far optimistic about my chances.

    My advice is to find a therapist if at all possible. Don’t look for the perfect one. I did have an asshole therapist some years ago who basically yawned at my rambling and kicked me out after the 20 sessions paid by insurance was up. Yeah, don’t pick that one. But keep going, even when it seems to make things worse, because that’s your fucked up brain’s first line of defense. The nervous system is trying to keep whatever state it’s in because change is potentially a hazard. We also have direct feedback from the older brain layers to the newer (lizard brain to neocortex), which is why anxiety fucks up your higher functions. The conscious mind doesn’t have direct effects on the lizard brain, so you have to calm it like a pet and trick it from its emergency response into a calmer state. Excercise, meditation, human interaction, laughter and antidepressants all help.

    Ed: typo

  98. 98
    Ruckus says:

    @raven:
    That’s the shit.

  99. 99
    worn says:

    @sparky: This.

    I recall a recent comment in a recent thread on mental illness & suicide over at Obsidian Wings, attributed to Nietzsche:

    “The thought of suicide is a great source of comfort; with it a calm passage is to be made across many a bad night.”

  100. 100
    👾 Martin says:

    Have you ever found yourself languishing on some horrible hamster wheel of suck and found a way to change your thinking and/or actions enough to get off of it?

    Nope. I found that expecting it to get better made it worse. If I just totally stop giving a shit about my situation, I get a lot more productive, which is something. I mostly just expect now to work until I drop. So, I guess my solution is to run faster in the wheel.

  101. 101
    Richard Fox says:

    @Haydnseek: Many thanks for your kind thoughts. Hope I have the will power. Some days are worse than others to say the least. But a trip beckons, that is keeping my spirits up. New York boy bound for sunny California! Seemed the correct thing to do, and was happy after finding my position was gone not to have cancelled it. (Probably couldn’t anyhow, but I didn’t want to.) And I have not been to the LA environs since 1980.. so it has been awhile. Genuinely looking forward to taking it all in and being inspired. Cheers.

  102. 102
    BGinCHI says:

    @I am not a kook: Therapy, exercise, work you love. If you can get that you can do a lot of good for yourself. Hang in there.

  103. 103
    Haydnseek says:

    @gbear: Wow. “Low Budget” is still on my turntable. A bit later in the Kinks Khronology, but still, what a coinkydink. I had a similar job for almost ten years. Aside from computer slavery, I had to take 80 calls a day on average from pissed off customers, handle roughly 50 pieces of mail/packages per day, and enter all the resulting orders, all why trying to answer the phone every 12 seconds. My doctor said that the stress was causing adrenaline and cortisol levels that were so high that I had already undergone damage to my heart tissue. I didn’t listen. I kept on, until I had an out-of-body experience on morning while on the freeway on the way to work. It was still dark. Something took over my body, and made me take the next off-ramp, turn around, and go home. I called the HR lady and told her that I could no longer do this. I never even went back to collect my stuff in the office. Just couldn’t do it.

  104. 104
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @BGinCHI:

    Who do you mean by we?

  105. 105
    BGinCHI says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: I’m a professor in the dept.

    ETA: you mean which school?

  106. 106
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @BGinCHI:

    I meant what school are you with? Did you say earlier and I missed it?

  107. 107
    gene108 says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    I’m actually looking for one right now. I graduated from college in May and am pretty rudderless. After putting it off for about 2 years too long, I finally started seeing a psychiatrist and counselor, was diagnosed with depression, and started anti-depressants a week ago. No big effects yet, so maybe in a month I’ll feel different.

    Good for you!

    I was depressed part way through college, but didn’t realize it; I just thought I had to be “tougher” or something like that to not be so socially anxious and sad. After I graduated, I had my first major depressive episode, because the routine of college was gone and the “crazy voices” started taking over my thoughts.

    My one lasting regret in life is that I didn’t get professional help sooner.

    I was sort forced to seek help after I tried killing myself at 28 and got committed. I pretty much pissed away my 20’s with undiagnosed depression and pissed away my 30’s trying to recover from 20’s.

    I hope with treatment you won’t have any major breakdowns along the way and can have a full life.

  108. 108
    gbear says:

    @Haydnseek:

    Something took over my body, and made me take the next off-ramp, turn around, and go home. I called the HR lady and told her that I could no longer do this. I never even went back to collect my stuff in the office. Just couldn’t do it.

    This is a fantasy of mine. I have walked away from a few jobs when I knew after a couple of days that it was a really bad match, but I would need to make some preparation if I wanted to do that now. I really should be looking in to what preparations I can make in order to do it.

    RE: the Arista-era Kinks: I’d kind of dissed that era for a long time but I recently picked up Misfits and the greatest hits record from that period and I’m kind of coming around. I’ve read some great reviews of Low Budget, but that era tends to drive a lot of people nuts.

  109. 109
    BGinCHI says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: email me at bradgreenburg (at) yahoo.com and I’ll give you all the info. I’m happy to meet with you and set up a meeting with the grad director so you can see what you think. We are a good stepping stone to PhD programs, especially if you aren’t quite ready to take the full plunge right now but want to keep working towards it. When I finished undergrad I was lost and if not for a few of my profs who pretty much forced me to consider grad school I don’t know what would have happened to me.

    Probably something terrible like sales or corporate crapitude.

  110. 110
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @BGinCHI:

    Probably something terrible like sales or corporate crapitude.

    Well, that’s definitely my fear, so it’s something I’ll definitely keep in touch about.

  111. 111
    StringOnAStick says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: You are such a fine writer; I see your comments at many other sites and always smile with a “hey, I know that guy” (in the “internet” way of course). With talent like yours, further credentials to make it a career seems like a great idea, though I understand the money issue. It is insane what college costs now in the US.

    I have to say though that fear of a lack of security hampered me most of my life and kept me from taking some risks that might have landed me a more satisfying career. I like what I do OK, but based on work history, GRE scores, excessive amounts of education in very diverse fields, I really should be doing more with my life than cleaning teeth. Cleaning teeth is safe, reliable, hell on my hands and I get to meet interesting people,, but maybe I should have used my brain for more than this. At one point in life my goal was a PhD in geology and a nice professorship; last week I had a patient who is that woman, and her finding out my background made her a bit sad and left me with a bunch of confused emotions, not the least of which is “too late”. Spaghetti Lee, you are far too talented to end up here, and young enough to not have to.

    Give the antidepressants time, they take awhile to work, and sometimes the doc decides another one might be a better fit based on your response. The main bit of advice I have on them is to definitely be using a psychiatrist as your prescriber; those are the ones who know the most about head meds, and most GP’s are simply not qualified in that area.

  112. 112
    gogol's wife says:

    I’ve only gotten to #45, but so far this is a sad, terrifying, beautiful, amazing thread. So many wonderful people, so much pain, so much goodness in spite of everything. Thank you for bringing up this topic, Betty Cracker.

  113. 113
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Capt. Seaweed:

    I celebrate this for you.

  114. 114
    Rosalita says:

    Through the really bad times, may sound trite, but it works – count my blessings — you have to try to focus on the positive or the bad will suck you under.

  115. 115
    WereBear says:

    I have rebooted my life several times now. I think the reason people stay on the “horrible hamster wheel of suck” is because what is required is leaving the wheel. And they won’t do that.

    They will struggle to make the wheel slow down or speed up. They will get new shoes and load up the iPod with new music. Or they will take something to make them feel better about the wheel or they will put on dark glasses so they can’t see the wheel. The one thing they won’t do is get off of it.

    Because to make a change, a real substantial change, means giving up a lot… maybe, everything. We have to be able to start from scratch when it comes to what we have accumulated in life; be it attitudes or architecture or simply life templates that have been handed to us without our consent.

    As an example, Mr WereBear and I were having yet another series of arguments about our little cat toy business; and I realized I was saying things about finance and money that I didn’t really understand. I decided I would throw out everything I had been taught, and everything I thought I had learned. I would simply look around, do some reading, and come to my own conclusions.

    This let me get rid of stupid stuff my parents had been taught… from the 1930’s. Stuff I learned from the 1970’s and 80’s which no longer applied. Stuff I got from a business in the 90’s (under Clinton) that had been kicked in the head until dead under Bush.

    And I’ve been making better financial decisions ever since.

    Because I was willing to let go of everything.

  116. 116
    Haydnseek says:

    @gogol’s wife: Keep going! This is the kind of thread that doesn’t happen often, but when it does it lifts us all. One thing that helps me: Try to be kind to others, no matter how exasperating that may be sometimes in certain situations. Everybody’s fighting some kind of battle, probably more than one, and they don’t need my petty shit added to theirs.

  117. 117
    gogol's wife says:

    @BGinCHI:

    Good man.

  118. 118

    Thank you Betty and thank everybody on this thread. It helps.

  119. 119
    gene108 says:

    @StringOnAStick:

    At one point in life my goal was a PhD in geology and a nice professorship; last week I had a patient who is that woman, and her finding out my background made her a bit sad and left me with a bunch of confused emotions, not the least of which is “too late”.

    My profs in undergrad (geology) were surprised I wasn’t going straight to grad school. I really liked soft rock geology and paleontology and spent a good bit of time hanging around in the department. I even worked for a professor about 10 hours per week.

    I couldn’t get myself to concentrate enough in my junior year to study for the GRE’s.

    I also thought getting good reference letters from professors meant I had to be a straight A student and do exceptional research type work for them; so I figured since my grades weren’t great and my work with professor wasn’t really involved (to some extent it was cleaning up a lot of glassware) I had no chance in getting two reference letters for grad school.

    I too sometimes have regrets about the geology professorship that never was, though I still have my rock collection from undergrad :-)

  120. 120
    Ted & Hellen says:

    To the “chop wood, carry water” idiots upthread:

    Yes, after “enlightenment” (which is an ongoing, incremental process, not a goal that is ever complete) one has to go on living if one chooses and one has to provide for oneself, but a healthy mind will see that there are an infinite means and styles of chopping wood and a gazillion different ways to carry the water that were simply invisible before.

    And one may discover that there are other things that need doing too, while others who enjoy chopping and carrying bring the water to YOU. :)

    This is the danger of ceasing self medication and calling it “done.” A lot of ignorant ideas from before stick around and people pass them off as wisdom because they’re not drunk anymore. Newsflash: Lots of people aren’t drunk.

  121. 121
  122. 122

    @DFH no.6: This, on both topics.

    Feeling crappy? Lay off the booze and the dope, and get your ass moving. Unless you are clinically depressed (in which case, please seek help!) the absence of depressants and presence of natural endorphins will make you feel better almost immediately.

    When the world starts feeling especially bleak, I do a 48-hr “straight edge” and the fire returns tout de suite.

    @Ted & Hellen: Meh. I like the idea of others bringing the water. As for the rest, ymmv.

  123. 123
    Haydnseek says:

    @Ted & Hellen: You’re right. Lots of people aren’t drunk, yet many are. Perhaps we should all just slow down, get together, and talk over coffee. Once we’re settled, we can talk about the ways that have worked for us when we needed to carry water or chop wood. Medication comes in many forms……….

  124. 124
    The Moar You Know says:

    Not for everyone, but some should find it refreshing.

    @The Red Pen: This week, I hope every last one of them sits in front of a mirror, weeps a little, says “I’m a good American”, shoves the muzzle of their precious handgun into their mouths and pulls the trigger. Don’t forget to aim upwards just a little bit to tickle that brain stem just right!

  125. 125
    I am not a kook says:

    @WereBear: +1000000. Absolutely right.

    Material things are so much easier to let go of than mental clutter and especially mental frameworks. I have jumped or been pushed into the unknown at 17, 20, 35, 45, and 49 so far (wow, that sounds kind of crazy). And I remember turning 25 and thinking my life was over, because the world had become so stable and all. Ha!

    The only material things I’ve lost that I miss are things I made myself.

  126. 126
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I can hardly wait to read this thread, but can’t at the moment. It is almost spookily timely. I’ve spent the day in the hospital room of my dear cousin, who suffered a massive stroke yesterday. His wife and daughter made the decision a short time ago to remove him from life support, and that process is now underway. A very sad time, made worse by the fact that they are still grieving their son/brother, who died much too young last November. All I can do is be present at this point. More later, but I bet this is one terrific conversation.

  127. 127
    Haydnseek says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: My deepest condolences. Words are inadequate, but sometimes all we have.

  128. 128
    Trollhattan says:

    Everybody knows somebody going through this, whether we’re aware or not. I try to keep my antenna up because you never know when simply asking, “How are you doing? No, really, how are YOU doing?” might be the most important question they ever hear.

    My brother in law, who I didn’t know especially well, jumped off a downtown building a few years ago. Nobody in the family knew he was hurting, or at least nobody has never said so. He was always their support, never the leaner, and I suppose it never occurred to anybody that the one with the Ph.D. in counseling would, himself, need help.

    Most days talking to my kid is enough to steer me back on track. When that doesn’t work it’s time for backpacking, because “the dirt don’t lie.”

  129. 129
    gene108 says:

    @Gaffa:

    Have you been able to apply for SSI?

    I have a couple of friends, who have mental health issues and qualified for SSI and one got Section 8 housing. This helps take the pressure off in a lot of ways.

  130. 130
    MomSense says:

    @Steeplejack:
    Oh thank you, thank you, thank you! Mary G is my hero. Oh wow I am so relieved.

  131. 131
    Steeplejack says:

    @BruceFromOhio:

    I do a 48-hr “straight edge”

    What is this?

  132. 132
    Steeplejack says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    My thoughts are with you and your relatives.

  133. 133
    sparky says:

    @Steeplejack: Awesome.

  134. 134
    farmette says:

    There are four things that have kept me relatively sane and joyful throughout this tricky journey called life: a never ending sense of awe and discovery, a firm belief that people are inherently good, a deep love of nature and patience.

    Everyday I see things, sometimes the smallest things like a bug or cloud pattern, and I smile and feel uplifted to have experienced it. And from my many years of work in the health care field, caring for all types of people, from all walks of life, seeing them often in the midst of trauma and sadness and unbelievable life stresses, I have witnessed so much more good and love and caring from people than bad. And nature, how I love and need it. It sustains me like food and drink. Every creature and plant and breeze. And when life gets really crappy and hurts, apply patience to the wound. Time does heal.

  135. 135
    MazeDancer says:

    Hanging on for one more day is different than working to move forward. For me at least.

    Hanging on, I have yelled at the inner monsters “I don’t believe you!” when dark attacks besieged. This has proven helpful. Created a little opening between the perfection, judgment, rules, and hopelessness and what is actual reality. Led me to finding out that for people who know what reality is, apparently they know life is messy and chaotic and that’s okay. More than okay, it’s being a human. Having something to yell, gave me a default thing to do. And established that I was not going to let the monsters win.

    Other mantra: “Stay open.”.

    There are few places where I can mention who gave me this advice, BJ is one of them. “Stay open, Mommy” was the full original quote. Came from my dying, sweet, angel cat. Since I had no clue how to change my life, one night, as I set petting her, knowing she was leaving me soon, I asked her. She replied. Have said “Stay open, stay open, stay open, as a mantra when I have thought that there were no options to move forward. Turns out my cat really knew some big stuff.

    “Stay open” is another way of understanding that nothing lasts forever. And helped me believe that there were other options than pain even if I didn’t know them yet.

    Remembering everything changes is hard you’re deep down in the pain, because a big part of the hopelessness is feeling nothing can ever be different than the current help. So, choose your own mantra to remind yourself nothing can last forever, absolutely nothing. (Which Ruckus wisely mentioned the other night. And, btw, has anyone heard from Higgs Boson Mate?)

    I also made lists of things I liked to remind myself when everything seemed impossible. Sometimes that list consisted of cats, books, TV, beauty, trees, and good food. Still, that’s not nothing.

    I read every single book and piece of research I could find on how the brain works. It was helpful for me. And by the way, exercise – and walking is fine exercise – is essential because exercise helps the brain make new brain cells. New cells help you stay open.

    This kind of body-oriented psychotherapy worked for me: Hakomi. That link goes to a site dedicated to helping people find therapy. There are other Hakomi sites, Google will show you.

    Ignore the bad website, this person also knows what he’s doing therapy wise and has lots of good info posted that might resonate with you and help you find your own good therapy.

  136. 136
    Kathleen says:

    @gogol’s wife: Yes indeed. I agree and appreciate everyone’s honesty and courage. I’ve been in one of my periodic funks (which I’ve battled my whole life) and I am feeling better just reading everyone’s stories. Thank you all.

  137. 137
    WereBear says:

    @MazeDancer: Since I had no clue how to change my life, one night, as I set petting her, knowing she was leaving me soon, I asked her. She replied. Have said “Stay open, stay open, stay open, as a mantra when I have thought that there were no options to move forward. Turns out my cat really knew some big stuff.

    I’m crying, that is so beautiful.

    I don’t know where I got it from, but I have always lived my life as though love is the most important thing of all, and it has been a star to steer by when all else has failed me.

  138. 138
    Steeplejack says:

    @MazeDancer:

    And, btw, has anyone heard from Higgs Boson Mate?

    Last I heard was here.

  139. 139
    StringOnAStick says:

    @gene108:

    I too sometimes have regrets about the geology professorship that never was, though I still have my rock collection from undergrad :-)

    Gawd, you have no idea how many times I have moved rock after rock after rock, some really large and heavy ones! Some are interesting and unique (to a geologist), and some are just plain pretty.

    I put my first husband through his PhD after we both finished our MS degrees; when the time came for my PhD, he reneged on the agreement and geology as a profession basically collapsed 3 years later (the marriage collapsed prior to that however). I suppose I could have done the debt deal to get through a PhD but to be honest, I’m a plodder and memorizer, not a creator or researcher, so any professorship I might have gotten would have had more to do with remedying gender bias than any great contribution to the science that I might have accidentally stumbled across. I would have felt bad taking a position from someone better qualified and more motivated; to be honest, I work to live, I don’t live to work and a professorship is more than a 40 hour week, especially in the tenure-acquisition phase.

    I like the freedom and flexibility I have with my current profession, and I can chose to live in nice locations, so my husband (the 2nd, and a total keeper) and I have perhaps traded off some earnings potential for living in a location we love. So really, it has worked out OK. Quite frankly, I never felt any shame about my choice until I spent 2 months working in a dental office in Boulder with the worst patient population I have ever worked with. Difficult work (periodontal disease patients), extremely arrogant and downright mean patients (one assaulted me, another spent the whole time trying to talk me out of my lab coat so he could get a better perv-view for his evening fantasies, one threatened to get me fired when his bridge fell out); that place sucked me dry. I quit that job, and hopefully have a much better one starting in a few weeks. Still, I guess I could have been a scientist, but I am happy now, I have the best life partner I could ever ask for and the depression that stalked me all my life has been under control for at least a couple of years now so I think I’m doing OK.

  140. 140
    StringOnAStick says:

    @WereBear: Thank you for that; love is all there is.

  141. 141
    TooManyJens says:

    @Steeplejack: Holy shit. Wow. Good for Mary, and I hope for the best for HBM.

  142. 142

    @Steeplejack: My experience began here, in short – no caffeine, meat, booze or weed, meditate on non-violence and tolerance, turn off the tv and the intertubes, drink a shitload of water and get to bed early. Pair it with a camp out or daylong ride on the bike, and it’s exhilarating.

    The celebs call it a cleanse, but I draw the line at enemas. Ick.

    @MazeDancer: Awesome. Sometimes to understand all we need do is listen.

  143. 143

    Had not seen that about Higgs. That is awesome and thank you Mary.

  144. 144
    MazeDancer says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Thank you! Yay for Mary G taking Higgs Boson’s Mate to her place. Wow. BJ commentariat is amazing. Literally saving someone’s life. Big props and kudos to Mary G!

    @WereBear:
    Love is all important. But tens of millions of people, myself among them, didn’t get taught what love is in their childhood so they don’t know how to recognize it as an adult. Or, having learned to perform brilliantly, get confused and think other things are love. Like approval. Applause. Fame. Or lack of being punished.

    I am blessed with many, many friends, but I didn’t know, on a feelings level, what was love and what was not. Cats taught me a lot about love. For a long time I thought how sad I had only ever been truly loved by cats. But then, again, I realized, hey, that’s not nothing. That’s real love. It’s a start. Build on that.

    @BruceFromOhio:

    Didn’t know about Straight Edge. Interesting.

    If I hadn’t gotten physically ill, and had to go no wheat, no sugar for 5 years, I might not ever have found any reality. 95% of the serotonin the body makes is in the enteric nervous system in the gut. (Read The Second Brain if you want to know more.) To this day, if I eat the wrong thing, dark depression can ensue.

    Also, I took beta blockers for a week. Miracle I came out alive. Recognized they were depressing me, Google searched, identified the culprits, stopped, a day later I was back to normal. Blood pressure medicine can kill your brain.

  145. 145
    hitchhiker says:

    All my horrible hamster wheels of suck have involved feeling trapped — in jobs, or small towns, or destructive habits.

    The wretched random shit has also happened — miscarriages, partner gets a vicious cancer and up and dies, partner breaks his neck and becomes a fragile old man version of himself. These are just ordinary heartbreak & always have resolved once the brutal moment of facing them has been lived through.

    Feeling trapped, however, is tricky. Sometimes you really are, as I was at 20 with no education, no job skills, and no way to get out of the small town I lived in. I hitchhiked away, hence my name here, but it was dangerous and weird and could have ended badly. Or at 50 when I had to take a barista job so that we’d have insurance & my spouse and kids could keep seeing doctors. This is how I tell if I’m really trapped or just self-sabotaging for some reason — if it’s truly dangerous to myself or others to get out, that’s a real trap.

    If I’m just repeatedly doing it, that’s something else. A slow-motion version of taking the open window, I suppose.

  146. 146
    keestadoll says:

    I cannot say that I drop in on BJ every day, but often enough to note that this is a unique thread. I suppose I would fall into the category of someone blowing my hamster wheel the hell up before deciding to jump off. Lots of galloping on broken glass. I have a strong streak of Mother Theresa in me so I tend to stick with lost causes way past the yellow tape and erection of CONDEMNED signs. That being said, recognizing this in myself, I’ve made it my focus to halt that disposition. I stop and ask questions of myself that are uncomfortable and inconvenient. I ask others what they think and ASSURE THE SHIT OUT OF THEM that I REALLY WANT AN HONEST opinion. That’s me.

  147. 147
    Violet says:

    @Steeplejack: Thanks so much for linking this. I hadn’t seen it. Yay for Mary G for reaching out and good for Higgs Bosun’s Mate for taking the outstretched hand. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing of all.

  148. 148
    Lordwhorfin says:

    @gogol’s wife: I for one think that the teachings of great faith leaders are perfectly appropriate as a personal guide. So is the support of community based on genuine fellowship. While I have no theology myself, I certainly support that which helps people through hard times.

  149. 149
    Lordwhorfin says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader: That’s an indication that my cat has found some paper towels.

  150. 150
    liberal says:

    @EconWatcher:
    Yeah, with kids one is often to busy to have time to think negative thoughts.

  151. 151
    Cassidy says:

    but this blog is a community of sorts,

    Yeah, I used to think that. It’s a load of bullshit.

  152. 152
    Tehanu says:

    Let other people help you. Let yourself have fun once in a while, even if only for an hour or two. My besetting sin has always been closing myself off and punishing myself, then hating myself for being closed off and deciding I need to punish myself more. Somebody upthread said, keep putting one foot in front of the other — to which I just add, look up at the sun and the stars once in a while. It helps.

  153. 153
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    The only tried and true remedy I have ever found which works consistently to pull me out of the black is a good, 45 minute, high intensity workout.

    For thirty years, if I can just get myself to escape into sustained physical activity, everything is easier to manage, is lighter and brighter– even during the worst, most difficult times.

  154. 154
    lojasmo says:

    Spent a couple years as a (probably) undiagnosed schizophrenic after a bad acid trip (kids, if you ever feel the need to do escalated doses because you trip too much, don’t take a hiatus, and think you still need to take four hits when you come back to it)

    My solution was to stay away from acid for the rest of my life.

    On a more serious note, I do not suggest LSD for anybody.

  155. 155
    SIA says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: So sorry, SD. Glad you’re there for them.

  156. 156
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @lojasmo:

    This explains so very much.

  157. 157
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Cassidy:

    WATB

  158. 158
    I am not a kook says:

    @Ted & Hellen: @Cassidy:

    Don’t start. Go shit in some other thread. Both of you. Please.

  159. 159
    Miki says:

    Oh, jeez – as someone who sees the open window as an option, but who is not suicidal, and is also not an optimist, here’s one of many reasons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/l...../lightbox/.

    Only my niece is left, and I don’t particularly like her, even though I love her (the impulse to reconcile the two is only one of many reasons I’m aware of open windows).

    Here’s another one – http://www.flickr.com/photos/l...../lightbox/

    And another one – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCQzcoX1gcI

  160. 160
    Elizabelle says:

    This was a great idea for a thread, and very generous impulse by Betty.

    Settling in with a glass of red to savor it.

  161. 161
    steve says:

    There is always this poem.

    There Is a Hole in My Sidewalk
    Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
    By Portia Nelson

    Chapter One
    I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost…I am helpless.
    It isn’t my fault.
    It takes forever to find a way out.

    Chapter Two
    I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend that I don’t see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can’t believe I am in this same place.
    But, it isn’t my fault.
    It still takes a long time to get out.

    Chapter Three
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep whole in the sidewalk.
    I see it is there.
    I still fall in…it’s a habit…but,
    My eyes are open
    I know where I am
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately,

    Chapter Four
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

    Chapter Five
    I walk down another street.

  162. 162
    NotMax says:

    what makes you keep passing the open windows?

    Any fool can jump out of a window.

    While I’ll be the first to admit to having any number of faults, being a fool is not among them.

  163. 163
    SIA says:

    @steve: Love that

  164. 164
    policomic says:

    I’ve struggled with depression, on and off, for most of my adult life. It’s rarely been what I’d call debilitating, but it’s always weighed me down. I’ve benefitted from cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness, but those require some individual discipline, and in the case of the former, the help of a counselor, and those are hard to come by when you’re low on funds and low on initiative.

    I’ve only recently discovered Emotions Anonymous, which is essentially a 12-step program for people suffering from depression and related problems. It wouldn’t be for everybody, but I’m getting a lot out of it, so far. Depression is so isolating, and the group setting ameliorates that. In a society that sometimes seems puffed up with hysterical optimism, just knowing you’re not the only one who isn’t bursting with happy-happy-joy-joy is a comfort. And it’s a lot cheaper than therapy–just bring a buck or two to put in the coffee can.

  165. 165
    northquirk says:

    I’m way late to this thread, but still wanted to add something.

    In 2003, my younger brother (& among my best friends) was sentenced to a decade in prison for a non-violent, drug related offense. When we first found out about his sentence, I had just started grad school & my job involved a lot of travel, so I was pretty busy, but still gave myself a bit of space to weep as much as necessary. I lived in a studio & literally would turn from my desk, cry hysterically for 5-50 min depending, then blow my nose/wipe my eyes and get back to work. That helped me learn to give myself space to grieve.

    After the weeping became less frequent, I started essentially practicing a sort of gratitude meditation. I didn’t think of it that way until much closer to my brother’s release, but dozens of times every day I started to pay attention & be thankful for all the small and large freedoms and joys I could experience that my brother was denied – food, friends, a comfortable bed, privacy in the bathroom, all aspects of the weather. Even amidst shitty times, crazy beauty surrounds us. The way trees move from a breeze & clouds roll across the sky. Sitting with a good friend. All the amazing abundance of food. A comfortable bed with good blankets. Any aspect of physical health that allows for mobility. Music! It’s kind of twisted, but my brother’s incarceration taught me that lesson and I still try to cultivate gratitude everyday.

  166. 166
    Nina-the-first says:

    @MomSense: Reaching out! Very pleased to know this. Thank you Mary G, for reaching out and thank you Higgs Boson’s Mate for holding on.

  167. 167

    @MazeDancer: Knowledge is power. Glad you are okay.

  168. 168
    dia says:

    I come late to this thread, but for me it was always being stuck on a specific hamster wheel at a specific time.

    The worst time was in high school, when I realized I was in for the kind of life that no particular talents and a shitty background get you. I decided to kill myself, but an open window would not do because the last thing I wanted was to survive a suicide attempt disabled — life was bad enough with the kicker of being quadriplegic. I decided to buy a gun, to be sure. It took a while to save up the $45 that I thought it could cost.

    Of course, no-one will sell a gun to a teenager, so after months of planning I found myself in the scary Big City with $45, more money than I’d ever had before in my life, and no way that I could figure out to spend it on a gun. So I indulged myself in a way I had never done — I went to a bookstore and bought $45 dollar’s worth of books (which bought way, way more books that it would now, to be sure) and went home and skipped high school that week and read them.

    I was just truant. No-one called me in sick, or cared that I was hunkered down in the attic, as long as I didn’t draw any attention to myself, and since I hadn’t hit any maximum number of truant days the school didn’t care. Not sure kids could get away with this either, mind you.

    And after a week of immersion in alternate worlds I felt a lot better, and I decided, once and for all, that the problem was simply that I was in the wrong world. If I could only get into the right one, I’d be fine. All I had to do was bide my time, try to figure out where the exits might be, and watch for them.

    The exit turned out to be a New York city that doesn’t exist anymore, a New York that was cheap, violent, and quite welcoming to any kind of freak. Not sure how anyone would do this now, as I keep saying. My escape was very much a product of that time and place.

    But I’ve always treasured that conclusion that if only I could get into the right world, I’d not be caught in this particular despairing one. Escape is possible. Do not give up.

  169. 169

    @northquirk: Even amidst shitty times, crazy beauty surrounds us. The way trees move from a breeze & clouds roll across the sky. Sitting with a good friend. All the amazing abundance of food. A comfortable bed with good blankets. Any aspect of physical health that allows for mobility. Music! It’s kind of twisted, but my brother’s incarceration taught me that lesson and I still try to cultivate gratitude everyday. Word, mofo.

    IF YOU’VE READ THIS FAR DOWN IN THE THREAD, PAY ATTENTION-EVERYTHING HERE IS THE REAL FUCKING DEAL. Thank you for your support. =)

  170. 170
    RSA says:

    Have you ever found yourself languishing on some horrible hamster wheel of suck and found a way to change your thinking and/or actions enough to get off of it? In a world that is so filled with sadness, impermanence and pain, what makes you keep passing the open windows?

    I’ve been dealing with serious medical issues in my immediate family for the past few years, and while I’m not subject to depression, it’s all anxiety-provoking and incredibly wearing. I’ll sometimes wake up at 4:00am and not be able to go back to sleep for bad thoughts. Here are some things I do now that I didn’t used to:

    I’ve started reading detective fiction and urban fantasy novels. The built-in escapism helps a little.

    I wrote a non-fiction book (with a lot of the writing done while sitting in ICU waiting rooms). Not a life-changer.

    I concentrate harder on whatever I’m doing at the time, whether at work or at home, leaving other thoughts in other mental compartments.

    I don’t worry overly much about material things. For example, I just put my 12-year-old car up for sale, and when a guy came by and made an offer, it turned out we couldn’t easily arrange for the title transfer for a few days, so I sized him up, chatted with his boss on the phone, and let him take the car for that time on a handshake. It worked out fine. And if it hadn’t? I’d have figured something out.

    I treasure small personal moments of happiness, when they come.

  171. 171
    polkcountydude says:

    I rarely post but this subject is near and dear to my heart. Several years ago in my mid 20’s, I passed the point where substances appeared to be a meaningful way to escape my depression. Psychedelics don’t breed stable people. They were a mirage. Instead, I settled on routine and family to drive me forward. That approach has given me an extremely successful and rewarding professional life. More importantly, that approach also enabled me to repair my family relationships. However, after the death of my Grandma and Labrador in my May, I realized how empty my life had become. My work schedule has limited my ability to build lasting relationships. I don’t have a girlfriend. I don’t have time to make new friends or keep my old friends. There are also numerous recession related family issues going on. All the reasons – family, friends, and my own self-worth – I improved my life have become secondary to my career. It’s made all the worse by the shame that my problems are first-world problems. That feeling just compounds my depression.

    That being said, this post from Betty is serendipitous. Today, I told my boss that I have to step back, for my own sanity as well as my family’s. To his credit – and hopefully the firm’s – I can work from home part-time to full-time. I can take some time off if I need to. I can help my Mom with my Grandma’s estate. I can fix up my Grandma’s old house so we can sell it. I can rebuild my relationships with friends and family. I can meet new people. I’ll have a new dog in less than 2 weeks. She is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever if anyone is interested.

    So while I don’t feel all the upside yet, this decision has given me more positive emotions than I remember having any time recently. And this “radical life change” approach has worked for me in the past. As another commenter said, you just have to be in tune with yourself for such a change to work. I hope that it works out for me. I realize that life isn’t all peaches but I want a somewhat balanced life. I’ve never had that.

  172. 172
    Moe Gamble says:

    1. What Werebear said–me too. Just step off the wheel. Let it go.

    2. Focus on the people and beings around you. You don’t have to fight big battles to make the world better. Just be tolerant of a neighbor who is throwing a loud party, give a $10 to a homeless person instead of a measly buck, tip the server bigger. Take care of your loved ones and take care of animals.

    3. Realize that life is all about the very small stuff, like the way the sun feels on your skin on a nice day, or how good the rain smells when it hasn’t rained in a long time, or how good a homegrown tomato tastes. None of the stuff they try to tell you is important is actually important.

    4. Get into nature as much as possible because it was where you were meant to be.

    5. Stop watching TV. It keeps you from real life and makes you hunger for the wrong stuff.

    Great post, great comments. You BJers who are depressed or in a difficult spot, hang in there.

  173. 173
    spudgun says:

    Saw this post earlier in the day but couldn’t comment because I was at work. I doubt anyone will read this far down in the comments, but just to add my two cents…

    Obviously familiar refrain, but I too have suffered most of my life from depression. I used to have a life, used to have ambition – I was an opera singer for some years, and was doing pretty well…until I wasn’t doing so well, and then health problems forced me to quit. My former life still haunts me to this day, even though it’s been over 13 years since I sang my last note. Music was the love of my life.

    The most difficult thing in all of this is trying to hang on to friends when they don’t understand – they either try to be supportive but can’t imagine what it’s like, or they can’t handle it and just walk away. I reached point where I isolated from everyone, even my family, because I didn’t want to inflict myself on others. It took a nervous breakdown and some inpatient/outpatient time to get me to a point where I could function again. Lots of meds, lots of psychotherapy…after some years I didn’t want to be on emotion-deadening meds anymore and the therapy was going nowhere.

    I’m sort of back to isolating (not from family, just from the social life), but I’m ok with it this time. It’s easier for me – a little lonely at times, but just…easier. Plus I have my darling kittybo, Trixie, who is a furry doll – pets really do help. I also try to find hobbies to take up my time – knitting and sewing, reading…exercise really helps. I used to be an avid cyclist, so one of my goals is to get back on the bike. Sports, I follow sports now – have always been into professional cycling, but now I watch baseball, football, basketball. Anything to keep from dwelling or mulling, which I’m far too good at and which makes the depression worse.

    Anyway, just wanted to chime in – thank you, Betty, for this thread. It’s easy to feel like a freak sometimes, but it’s kind of a relief to know that there are others out there who have gone/are going through the same thing and that we all deserve something better.

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    lurker dean says:

    great comments indeed, thanks for the thread betty.

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    Corner Stone says:

    @Cassidy:

    Yeah, I used to think that. It’s a load of bullshit.

    Waaaahhhh! Wahhhh!! To the eleven, WAHHH!
    Your beautiful prey drive being called out for the ultimate douchecanoe that you are.

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    Corner Stone says:

    @I am not a kook: GFY

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    worn says:

    @Trollhattan: Left coast & way, way late to the thread (minus my cursory lunchtime weigh-in), but what Trollhattan wrote might be the biggest lesson life’s been trying to drill into my thick skull this year. Suffered 5 deaths in 8 weeks this spring. Number one was my best friend from childhood who committed slow-mo suicide via the bottle. I had spoken with his mother in the previous year (she & I are still close) and knew he was trying to skate through a really rough patch; she was already worried about finding him dead, a fear that ultimately came true. And so I had put it down on my mental to-do list to reach out to Steve and try to re-establish contact. But I never did, such things being so very easy to put off ’til the next day. Number 4 my friend & next door neighbor. The news of his death was quite the shock, for the entirety of our knowing each other the dynamic was one of he razzing me for consistently being a half-full glass guy. He was Mr. Positive. I passed him about 3 days before he jumped off the Fremont Bridge here in Stumptown. And he looked positively haggard & dead-eyed. I said “Dave! How’s it going?” He barely lifted his eyes from the pavement to mutter a reply “Ah, not so good.” This was uncharacteristic enough behavior for me to once again add an item to the mental list: check up on Dave. But my sister was visiting from Europe that weekend and so the next couple of days were filled with housecleaning & related prep, followed by her visit of several days. By the time the dust had settled, he had taken his life.

    So all I can advise, verily, urge folks to do is to follow your intuition and check up on your peeps. There’s a lot of people hurting out there who choose or are compelled, for one reason or another, to not reach out to anyone and to put on a impassive face and soldier on. That is until the emotional pain overrides the desire to live.

    And merci beaucoup, Betty, for this thread. Might be the best, most temperate comments section I’ve seen on BJ in, well, who knows how long.

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    MazeDancer says:

    Mary G posted a lovely update about Higg’s Boson’s Mate in the first Madison Meet-up thread, comment #93

    http://www.balloon-juice.com/2.....nt-4564695

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    One of the worst things I have found out about depression is how much the things I used to love (food, music, etc.) become just “meh”. Going to a big classic rock fest a few weeks ago was the happiest I have been in years but I still had to force myself to eat. That right now is driving me nuts on how to fix.

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    spudgun says:

    @MazeDancer: Thanks for this! I knew about Mary G’s heroic action and was hoping for an update on how Higg’s was doing.

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    spudgun says:

    @S. cerevisiae: I’m so sorry…I dearly wish I could give you my appetite – depression makes me comfort-eat a LOT.

    I agree, depression does tend to suck the joy out of the things that used to be pleasurable/fun.

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    jenn says:

    @Steeplejack: @MazeDancer: Thank you, thank you for reposting this – I just burst into tears, I’ve been worried about him! Thinking crazy awesome thoughts Mary G and Higgs-ward.

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    jenn says:

    On topic: Backpacking. Hiking is great, but backpacking is even more of a healer. The bullshit recedes and all you have to do is sling that pack over your shoulder and put one foot in front of the other. And if you’ve backpacked a trip of any length, you can definitely work out a bunch of stuff, and find out what your priorities *really* are. But even when I can’t make time for backpacking, hiking is great, walking is great, and if I can’t do that, at least get out into some place green!

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    @jenn: True, but my degree is in ecology and my current position still gives me access to primary scientific papers and I know our civilization(?) is well and truly fucked. I can’t face kids and lie to them anymore. We have boned ourselves between peak oil and climate change and the oligarchs in charge are going to cheer us on as we kill ourselves for the scraps from their tables.

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    spudgun says:

    @worn: Yes, this was the behavior of some former friends of mine. Not making a judgment, just stating a fact – but this highlights how easy it is to get caught up in your own life and either miss the signs or just pass it off as a blip or whatever, just to not have to deal with it.

    This is exactly why I find it easier to remain antisocial so I don’t have any expectations or have to make any demands or rely on other people.

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    JustRuss says:

    I’ve read the entire thread, and I don’t think anyone has mentioned what worked for me: anger. I’ve been dealing with depression for a few years, this spring was the worst. Some days it was all I could do to get out of bed. On one of those days, I just got pissed. At myself, at the depression, what ever. It was enough to break the spiral of suckitude for a few minutes and let me get moving. After about a month of refusing to let myslf slide into the morass of helplessness, the depression seemed to mitigate substantially. Disclaimer: I probably suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and sunnier weather arrived about this time, so we’ll see how things go.

    I am not suggesting it’s all in your head and you just need to suck it up, just passing along what’s worked for me.

    I’ve also been in therapy for a year, some days it seems to make things worse, but I think it’s helped over all.

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    spudgun says:

    @JustRuss: This is interesting. I don’t necessarily feel anger, but I do occasionally get to a point where I get fed up and full of frustration and say to myself, “This is f*cking ridiculous, just get on with it” and it actually works for a while to motivate me.

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    Betty Cracker says:

    Thanks to everyone for the shared advice, stories, sorrow, happiness, wisdom, hilarity, hostility, pain, joy, despair, etc.

    I see an ad on TV every now and then for an outfit called “We Can Help Us” (I think), which appears to be some sort of teenage peer-to-peer networking and self-help dealio.

    Well, if those skulking, hormonal bastids can pull each other off the ledge, why not us cranky old/middle/young adult jackasses? There’s some great advice in this thread, and sometimes it just helps to realize you’re not alone in your angst and pain. So thanks.

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    WayneL says:

    I became a Buddhist monk. The only way to handle chronic adversity in a healthy way is through mindfulness meditation. It’s not easy, but it is painless. You don’t have to sit on the floor; a chair does nicely. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it produces results amazingly fast. It doesn’t require you give up your beliefs, or non-beliefs. You just sit down, let your mind settle, follow your breaths in and out, and keep bringing your mind back when it runs off, which it will do over and over and over. We feed our bodies, but ignore our minds’ pleas for help. Just ask a monk.

    Metta.

    Ajahn Don Gatasaro

    ajahn.gatasaro@gmail.com

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    Gaffa says:

    @gene108: Sorry, just checked back on this thread.

    I’ve applied for all the free mental health stuff I can get. I’ve got most of it, and, yes, it does help. I don’t qualify for housing, though.

    Thank you for asking.

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    Fort Geek says:

    Late to the thread, but that’s ok. Three years ago, I got tossed off the hamster wheel when a golf-ball sized tumor in one kidney jacked my blood pressure up to stroke levels (290/150 at one point). This ended up zipping a tear in my aorta from the arch all the way to the pelvic branch. This is permanent, unless I get aortic replacement surgery (worst case), but the docs have me managing it with BP meds. Won’t get better, but won’t get worse as long as I don’t over exert (no lifting more than 35-40 pounds).
    I can’t walk far, can’t stand very long–and so now I can’t just hike around my beloved forts (I live within 30 minutes of 3 pre-Civil War coastal forts and used to be able to go all day in any one of them). Now any visit means watching for resting spots, pacing myself, and knowing when I’ve hit a stopping point (can’t take much heat or cold, either).
    I’m not much of a people person, so I cope by working on fort stuff that I can manage at home (photos, CAD drawings). If that doesn’t work, all I need to do is pick up the keys to my “rescue” car. When I got it 4 years ago, it was in pretty sad shape, had been sitting in some guy’s driveway for years. I had it running and roadworthy in 3 weeks, running better by 5 months, and running dependably by 8. Now just grabbing the keys gives me some pride in having saved a good (and FUN!!) car (and a little piece of racing history) from the crusher.

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    gogol's wife says:

    @Fort Geek:

    Really interesting — I’m glad I checked back and read this.

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    InternetDragons says:

    I guess I’d say I am late to the thread, but a thread like this sort of exists in its own time frame.

    What works. Being clean and sober for over 25 years now (though I will say that my long-ago fling with psychedelics – not the other drugs, lol – actually was a good thing; I don’t regret it at all, though I certainly won’t do psychedelics again).

    I don’t do the entire 12-step scene these days, but so much of it still works for me…like considering what I have to be grateful for (the real kind that you feel all the way down to your bones, not the “I guess I should make a gratitude list” stuff). These days I do Mindfulness meditation more than strictly 12-step work, but they share similarities.

    I have been through some extremely rough patches, but have been graced with a lot too (a career in health care, mostly HIV research, that I love and that I know makes a bit of difference in the world; a good education; a little house that’s cozy and just right for me; my pets). So I try to pay it forward. That helps.

    I read a lot. I lose myself in great stories if I get too down. I stopped watching TV entirely and that was a good decision. Nature helps. Walks. Great art lifts me out of my own head.

    I guess I’ll end by saying I am grateful for this thread for a lot of reasons, but one is that this is my first experience with actually ‘seeing’/hearing Ted & Hellen in a way that left me feeling connected. I’ve been on the verge of blocking his posts because sometimes he just seems needlessly….well, mean. But right now I get a bit of the actual person there; I sense we share at least a few paths, and I am going to try to remember that. So thank you.

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    fuckwt says:

    Helping others in need is what keeps me going. I was not surpised to notice that is how Mary pulled Higgs Boson’s Mate back from the ledge too.

    When I have dark times, which has been often, it’s being needed by and having responsibility for others that keeps me on this earth. Takes my mind off my own issues, and gives me a purpose in life, and even a purpose FOR life.

    Quite honestly, if I didn’t have any kids to take care of, I’d have been dead quite a while ago.

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