A Competition of Values

I’ve written about values in the past and it was something that I’ve felt was really important to me. However, it wasn’t until I had read Lost Connections (see my review here) that my values, education as a Lean practitioner, and my work environment was a major source of my depression. I think at some level I knew this, because I would get frustrated often and talk about it with the one or two people that really understood it. When I read two sections of Lost Connections, I put a couple pieces together.

In one section, Hari talks about how being unable to control things in your job, regardless of the type of work, completely destroys someone’s sense of worth and drives you into a state of hopelessness and depression. This can lead to anxiety and the inability to plan, because the depression and anxiety shrink your time horizon down to the immediacy of dealing with the person in control of your work life. This is something that his abhorrent to Lean, Agile, and Six Sigma methodologies. Where the goal is to push down decision making to the person closest to the actual work. In companies that really focus on driving down cost or having the single point of decision making, this can be anathema to the company culture.

The second section that hit home was the portion about our culture being at odds with our intrinsic values. Considering that I’ve been immersed so deeply with Lean, I have a strong sense of what i believe is fair for technology and social policies, it’s unsurprising that the current political environment was contributing to my depression. I had tried to fight this by writing, but I had just felt beaten down. I didn’t feel like I had anyone around me to talk with to support my values, this plunged me into farther depression.

This is where you need to find like people around you and I completely failed in that. I needed support for my values to be able to compete with the unhealthy cultural values i was thrown into at work. While I threw myself into an unhealthy amount of news and media about current politics. These two together over a series of months and years really started to take a toll on me. I suspect that I’m not alone in this. No matter what your principles are, you need to have a strong support network to keep those values healthy. You also have to be aware that your values are under attack by a society that values things very differently than you do. By a society that’s trying to exploit your anxiety to take your money to make you feel better. Because that item is the only thing that will make you feel better.

I had thought I was immune to that because I read a lot. I wasn’t out on Facebook or any places like that really trying to keep up with the Joneses. But I believe that I just dealt with that issue in other ways, including eating more than I should when I’m depressed, having a couple more drinks that I needed, or by shutting myself away from friends and family through gaming or reading or staring off into nothingness.

However, I now know that this is a thing that has happened to me and I can stop and listen to what I’m feeling. I’m going to with help of my friends locally and online to discuss my values and how I’m feeling about things. I’m going to sit with these feelings to understand them and figure out what it is that is in conflict causing me to feel this way and then make a plan to address it. As it is, i’m going to be working with my wife to figure how to get more connected with nature and how to get connected with more people in the area. As a way to get connected and be healthier.

I’m really glad I found this book, because it’s helped me feel a lot lighter about things. It’s helped me understand that I’m not broken, I have problems that cause depression, but they are solvable and I just need to ask for help and figure out to fix them with my partner.

Review: Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari

Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected SolutionsLost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First of all you need to go into this book with an open mind. Skepticism on what he has to say is perfectly acceptable, but if you do not go into this with an open mind, you’re not willing to listen to what he’s saying. I read some of the 1 star reviews on Amazon and I believe that a lot of them really missed what he was trying to say with this book.

One thing you must be open to, is that our current pill happy society may actually be incorrect in using pills to address depression. That we may need to change how we live to address our depression and work with other people to get rid of it. It seems pretty ground breaking but this is supported with a lot of research. A full 30% of this book is foot notes (according to my Kindle). There are some foot notes that reference a full dozen different papers to support a given statement. This, for a layman’s pop-sci book, is pretty unheard of. I’ve read books by both scientists and science communicators and I’ve never been overwhelmed with evidence like I have in this book.

This book forces us to look at some very different causes for depression. One of the is trauma that we may or may not have dealt with in our childhoods. Just because it is A cause of depression, doesn’t mean it applies to everyone. There are certainly people that have dealt with childhood pain as well as some of the other causes like a soul crushing job with continual instability in keeping that job. Each of those are different causes of depression. In all, he lists 9 factors. I believe that there’s some of them that have actually impacted me in some way. From continual stress at home growing up to instability in jobs and a different set of values at work through my Lean Continuous Improvement training which just completely beat me down. I felt rather helpless in a lot of ways and I had no idea how to get out of it.

While reading this book, I’ve felt better than I’ve felt in a long time because he offers solutions to cases he describes. He explains people that were in bad situations and some of the solutions that helped them. Then he goes into great details to explain a large number of medically researched solutions that do not involve anti-depressants. This includes things like meditation, getting out in nature more, reconnecting with people through either support groups or something like a community garden. They are a lot more detailed than that. However, the important thing is that he describes cases with interviews, of where this has worked. In many cases with psychoanalysis but in some cases without.

The one thing that really helped was that you aren’t intended to do this alone. That you should seek out help and that one thing that is driving our depression is loneliness so the solution cannot be more of the same alone-ness. I’ve asked my wife to help me deal with my depression. Some of the things that we’ve committed to doing because of this book is to get to the coast at least monthly. To join an art class together, where we can meet new friends. She’s going to support me with playing hockey, as well as other things that we come up with from there.

I strongly recommend this book to people with any form of depression and I hope that you use this as a point to get help. Reach out and get a therapist, then, after you start to feel better, ask for help from friends to go with you when you start a new class or new organization. People generally know that you are depressed and being open about it and asking them for help will excite them. They want to help you (you know that I’m sure), but don’t know how to help you. This book can provide a language for you and your friends to discuss ways that you can get better.

You may always be depressed in some way, but you’ll be better overall.

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Review of Sam Sykes’ the City Stained Red

The City Stained Red (Bring Down Heaven, #1)The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. This definitely isn’t the high fantasy of Martin with big words, the biggest. This is the way that your DM talks to you while you’re playing a DnD campaign. Short, brutal, and with enough description to know how deep you are in the shit and let’s your imagination to fill in the rest. I mention a DM, because this books feels like someone took an incredibly chaotic DnD campaign and decided to turn it into a book. Where characters went off and did everything that you wouldn’t want them to do if you were running the campaign. It’s great. It’s funny, you love the characters, you care about what they are going through. Furthermore, this is generally a very tightly focused book on a single place without the massive world ending implications driving everyone to save everything. The characters are scared, in a horrible place, with crazy things going on that you don’t generally understand.

Sykes creates some really cool twists on existing fantasy character races, while makings new ones that blend seemlessly in his world. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that has had a hilariously absurd DnD session or that just wants a fun book that isn’t as weighty as a Rothfuss or Martin (weighty in terms of plot not size of book).

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