Start with Something

In The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck the author makes a compelling case for improving your life, starting with something simple. Something small. This is not easy. As the author says, “It’s simple, but not easy.” If you have depression you know this is very true. So true in fact, that starting something, where that something is getting out of bed, can be a huge challenge.

In Lost Connections the author talks about how different treatments positively impact depression. One of the scales he references, Hamilton Depression rating, notes that many patients that use anti-depressions only see a 0.25 increase in their overall mood, while a good night sleep gets you that much or more.

I’ve always had problems getting to sleep. It can take me up to an hour to fall asleep after I’ve gone to bed. This is a combination of anxiety, too much screen time – which can mess up your ability to fall asleep, and just being a super light sleeper. So, I’ve decided to start with something where I have a decent amount of control. Where it’s easy to make a change.

For Christmas my brother got me a start set of the Philips Hue lights. I didn’t know much about them, but i wanted to try using them to see how it impacted our house. So, I put a bulb in the nightstand by the bed. I found out there’s a setting that allows you to wind down the lighting before bed. So I’ve started to use that setting. It gives you about 30 minutes to wind down as the light dims. I’ve made it my routine to go to bed about 15 minutes before it starts that process. I use this time to get ready for bed and do some night time writing or reading. I’m also going to start adding in some nighttime meditation to help me unwind.

This really helps me get away from the screens. It pulls me out of the hellscape that is social media. It allows me to write creatively without typing on a screen or read an interesting story. Writing has really helped get ahead of my anxiety because, whatever I write just kind of comes out.

The meditation is also a great addition, because it’s another way to address the spinning that your mind goes through at night. You are intentional about your mind spinning. You intentionally walk through the past day. You then put that aside and tell your body that it is OK to relax. This short circuits the spinning and anxiety. You control your night.

This is something small. I’ve made sure that it’s been relatively easy to make the change. I started with the light and time away from my computer. Then I added the writing and reading. Last night I added the meditation. These changes have positively impacted my mood. I’ve gotten better sleep and that, has helped with my depression.

Start with something. Start with making it easier for you to sleep well.

Meditation and Owning Your Response to Others

In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck the author argues that we have responsibility for everything that happens to us. He stresses, accurately, that we are not at fault for everything. Which means that bad things happen and these bad things can happen to us in a way that there was nothing we could do to prevent them from happening to us. For example, emotional abuse or physical abuse that you suffered at the hands of your parents are not your fault. The resulting trauma is not your fault. You are not responsible for what that person did to you. You are responsible for how you respond to that abuse now. this is a subtle but important distinction. You are not responsible for the actions of another nor are you not at fault, instead you are responsible for your response as an adult and how you carry that trauma into other relationships.

This is something that’s taken me a long time to understand. I knew I wasn’t responding well to situations all the time. I’d get a lot angrier than I should over something small. I didn’t understand I was responding the way I would have to my mother when I should have been looking at the situation differently as it was my wife that I was talking with. I should not have been as angry, because my wife didn’t do anything to warrant that reaction. Furthermore, I thought it was my wife’s fault and responsibility to not upset me.

I needed to own how I responded to her. I needed to take that as my responsibility to understand why I was responding the way that I was. Especially if we were having a series of blow ups, it was even more important to understand what I was feeling and why. This was not something I had the skills to handle.

Through the course of my therapy and reading, I’ve found that meditation has really helped me with my responsibilities. Whenever I’m very stressed, I’ve used a few minutes to step aside and do a breathing exercise. According to The General Theory of Love, this is a way for your body and mind to reconnect. It is a way for your rational mind to give your emotional mind a hug. This is similar giving a dog a hug during a thunderstorm. The dog doesn’t understand why there is thunder. Just that there’s loud noises and bright lights. Things that can hurt the dog. We know that we’re safe in our house. That the thunder is noise and the lightening bright, but not something that will come and get us. So we comfort the dog through hugging and petting.

We need to do the same to our own mind. The emotional part of our brain isn’t much different from a dog’s and our rational part is the same part we use to comfort the dog. Meditation and focusing on breath allow us to calm ourselves. Over time meditation is a powerful tool for beginning introspection.

I use Headspace, but there are other apps like it, such as Calm and YouTube channels, etc… There’s no one perfect tool for helping you with meditation. Each one does have guided meditations to help you understand your behavior in relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. The technique asks you to imagine yourself happy, then other people. This approach makes you think about why you get angry. Why you respond the way that you do and think about how you have hurt other people. It’s a step in understanding yourself better. It’s a way to both hug yourself and take a look at who you are and what type of person you want to be.

Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson – A guide for finding the right values to give a fuck about the right things

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good LifeThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually first heard of this book while I was reading an article about Millennial Burnout. The author of that article knocked this book, which now I realize that author clearly hadn’t read this book! I think this book is completely misnamed, because this book isn’t about ‘Not Giving a Fuck’ it’s really about ‘Giving a fuck about the right things.’ I think this is an important distinction and one that, if you judge the book by its cover, you’ll definitely miss.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on depression. I’ve read 1 book written by a layman that covers a great deal of different research on depression, Lost Connections. I’ve read another book that deals with Trauma and how that can cause depression, The Body Keeps the Score. Finally, I’ve read a book on the science of love and how unhealthy relationships while growing up and as adults can cause depression, General Theory of Love. I believe that I can add this as a fourth book to this list. In Lost Connections the author argues that a major cause of depression in our lives is a misalignment with our core values and the values of society. I believe that this book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, is an entire book about that.

The author’s premise is that we are valuing, and thus giving a fuck about, the wrong things. That could be chasing material items, women (the author himself is a self confessed womanizer), a bigger paycheck, a new job that will solve all their problems, and other things. We are chasing these things, because this is what we’ve been taught to value through our friends and families.

However, these things do not make you happy. Solving the right types of problems can make you happy. Those problems that you solve are what you value. Seeking them out can help make you happy. The pain and struggle of solving those problems lead to happiness.

This rings true to me. I’m struggling with work and finding balance and happiness with my life. I’ve had great success in my work and have made significantly more money since entering the job market. However, I am not less depressed. If anything my depression deepened. As a result, I feel like I’m flailing.

This book helped me put into context a lot of different ideas that I had read in the other three books. In a way it synthesized those ideas into something that was more actionable. In some ways, the action is to do something, anything. But start by putting one step forward. Try something small and take responsibility of that.

Responsibility is a key theme in this book. You take responsibility to how you respond to anything that happens to you. This isn’t to say it’s your fault this thing happened. For example, if you get sick, that is not your fault. How you deal with being sick is your responsibility. If someone treats you like shit at work, that’s not your fault, but how you respond to them is your responsibility. If you set boundaries and make it clear that behavior is unacceptable and act professional, you can start to change that relationship. If you retaliate and escalate things, you are responsible for that. Even if the person, really pissed you off.

I think this book is also important given the conversation around Toxic Masculinity. Toxic Masculinity is all about entitlement. This book argues that entitlement is one of the major reasons why people are unhappy. It leads to shitty values that make you a shitty person. If you are pissed off that people don’t like toxic masculinity, it’s because you’re concerned some of your behavior may be construed as toxic. You’re responsible for that response. You’re responsible for inspecting your values and your behavior to understand if you are a toxic person. If you find yourself wanting, then it is your responsibility to change and improve yourself. You can. This book helps provide a roadmap for it.

This book isn’t perfect, of course. The author definitely leans into the title during the beginning of the book, which can get old. There are other places where the author does this as well, because it seems to fit. However, if you are able to get past that bit of childish fun to get into the meat of the book, it’s well worth it.

I would strongly suggest that if you find this book interesting to read the other books about depression I suggested above. These together can help you work through your depression, if you are also depressed.

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Dealing With Depression at Work

I tweeted this earlier today

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Dealing with depression at work is a real struggle for most people. If you look at the link the first item is to talk with your boss. I do think it’s important to discuss your depression with your boss, however, I think beforehand, you really need a plan. Depending on your depression this may be an impossibility to come up with on your own. If you’re depressed the way I was depressed, you struggle to discuss it with loved ones or your friends. These friends may suspect you have depression or serious changes in moods. They may not understand it, but they’ve stuck by you. So, in my opinion, these are the people to start with.

Talk with what support network you have. If you don’t have a strong one, then build one in a community where you feel safe. Where I live, I really don’t have much in the way of a support network, my wife and a couple friends. Before going to therapy, most of my support network was from my gaming community. Recently, we’ve been much more open about our depression and how we’re working to deal with it individually. With them I’ve discussed how I plan to deal with depression at work. Gotten feedback and tried to implement it.

Changing is really hard with depression. It never seems worth it. So, the second step I would take, after starting to talk about depression you trust, is to start doing breathing exercises. It’s a small thing, but listening to a 3 minute headspace meditation is super helpful. It pulls you out of your current situation, which may have involved a trigger of some kind, and allows you to control something. Controlling your breathing gets you back in touch with your body, gets you away from your phone (which allows you to avoid rather than work through your feelings), and away from the immediate stressor (as the article recommends). Your smoking friends have known the power of this for a while. When things get stressful, many of them will take a smoke break. With the cigarette they control their breathing and pull themselves out of the situation. Now, smoking isn’t the answer, but definitely breathing and meditating can help and are much healthier.

The other problem with discussing depression with your boss, is that unless they have depression or have gotten help for depression, most of them are not equipped with the tools to help you. You’ll need to go to them with a plan and reasons why you need these things. On top of that, if your manager and job are a source of your depression, it’s unlikely you’ll get the relief you need from the manager and/or job itself.

Ultimately, a combination of a strong support network, self-care, and therapy are the best long term treatments for depression. If you are unable to afford therapy, I suggest reading about the topic (I’ve written a few book reviews about the topic Body Keeps the Score and Lost Connections) and practicing some of the recommendations until you’re able to get yourself into a position to afford therapy. Keep in mind, one of those solutions may require getting a new job. So, maybe talking to a career coach and updating your resume can be some of the therapy you need.

Finally, you aren’t alone. Build your support network one person at a time. If you feel like you might have depression talk about it when you’re feeling up with just one person. Then when you’re feeling down, it’ll be easier to talk with them about it. Starting the conversation when you aren’t at your lowest is best way to have a conversation. It’s not easy. It’s important though.

What Books Have Meant to Me

I have been a voracious reader most of my life. However, it didn’t come easy to me at first. In First Grade, where we really started to learn to read, I struggled a great deal. I always feared reading out loud because I would jumble words. They would swim in my vision and make it really difficult to read. I still switch words and I feel like when I’m reading out loud, I’m staring at the whole page rather than a specific line. It’s very difficult. However, I liked the stories that I was plunged into and it definitely made things feel worth it. In 3rd grade I really started to read ahead, but started to get major headaches while reading, so I had to get glasses just for reading. It eventually turned into requiring glasses all the time.

In 5th grade I really jumped into the world of Fantasy. When i’d get in trouble with the parents, we’d get sent to corners and one of the corners was next to my parent’s “nice” book shelf. In there was a really old version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I was super interested by the book spines, as there was this crazy eye in the center of a ring. I decided to read this book when I got an assignment for doing a diorama about a specific book. Most of my classmates selected much shorter books, but I was super proud of selecting that book.

A few years later, my friends and I had a falling out. I ended up falling back into that series again. I read everything i could get my hands on. I was so depressed, but didn’t really understand what depression was. I was alone, but couldn’t really articulate to my parents and nor could my parents help me with my depression and loneliness because they didn’t have the emotional tools to help me with my depression. My dad specifically, because he was struggling with his own depression so he just wasn’t there.

As a result, I end up spending a great deal of time with Middle Earth. Since this was around when Metallica Load came out, I deeply associated that album with the Lord of the Rings. To the point where I was really disappointed with the video of “Hero of the Day” because I kept associating the narrator of that song with Frodo. It’s not the worst video, but it definitely didn’t fit with what I was expecting given how many times I heard that album while reading those books.

Over the years I’ve escaped into books to deal with the depression rooted in my parents fighting. Dealing with my girlfriend in HS. The divorce of my parents. Books were always my escape from these difficult times. Lately, I’ve been depressed to the point where it was a struggle to read.

I plan to start a small series on here for when the fancy strikes to write about a book that meant something to me and why it meant something to me. Something in more detail than what I wrote, here, about Lord of the Rings. This idea came from the Movies with Mikey episode about what Animation Taught Us. For me though, since I was limited in what I could watch on TV, including Movies, I think that Books are more appropriate. I’m not sure exactly how this will play out, so we’ll see.