Talking about Depression

Writing and talking about depression isn’t easy. It’s not easy because we have a stigma around depression. Add a general lack of understanding of what depression is, you have a mix that means people end up talking past each other. Depression is hard to talk about because it is the opposite side of the anxiety coin. Even if you don’t realize you have depression, if you have anxiety, you have depression. Conversely, if you have depression you have anxiety. Being anxious about things makes dealing with your depression even harder because you want to talk with people about it. You want to get help from friends and family, but because you’re anxious about it you are afraid of being a burden on that person. You aren’t going to be a burden. Most of your friends probably know that you have your moods or get defensive about things or whatever else. They don’t understand why you always behave the way that you do, but they are concerned about you and would want to help you.They may not know the best way to do so and may, in their ignorance, say unhelpful things like “Cheerup” or “this will pass you’ll feel better.”

The first step to helping the people around you understand depression is to get a better understanding of what it means to you. You’ll need to develop the right language so you are able to articulate exactly what’s going on. This isn’t easy. I’ve been going to therapy for over a year now and I now feel like I’m developing the correct language to discuss it. In many cases it’s actually been the joint therapy sessions with my wife where I’ve developed the interpersonal language to describe what’s going on between her and me.

So to develop the right language, I strongly recommend reading Lost Connections. Once you’ve made your way through that, you’ll have a better understanding of what is the major driver of your depression. That will really help you articulate what’s happening. If you get through it and feel that all of them are contributing to your depression, don’t feel overwhelmed. Focus on one of them that you think might be easiest to address through the help of your friends. Friends will be a key part in helping you recover from your depression. Being open with them about this will help them understand what you really need.

If trauma is the root cause of your depression or could be, then I recommend reading a much more emotionally difficult book called The Body Keeps The Score. This book will help you understand why you might be having the reactions you’re having when you have an event that triggers a memory of that trauma. Yes, being triggered is a real thing. It causes you have to a similar physiological response that you had during the actual trauma. However, keep in mind that lashing out at your loved ones will not really help you resolve the trauma.

Next you should begin meditating. This will be hard and scary. It’s terrifying and you’ll feel like you’re doing it wrong because you cannot sit with your emotions. You cannot be still with your self, because it means you’re still with your depression. No, it is not easy to do. It’s difficult to stick with it as well. You aren’t alone in feeling scared of being with your emotions alone.

It’s important to do because this is a way to cognitively digest some of your daily anxiety. It’s a way to allow you to look at those feelings. Turn them over and then pass them. The pause of meditation can help immensely when you’re having an anxiety attack. Even if you only do it for 3 minutes. This is because you begin to focus on your body, calming your body, which allows your reptilian/emotional mind to calm and to allow your mammalian/rational mind to hug and hold your emotions.

On being an interesting person

This weekend I was hanging out with a friend talking about different life experiences. She argued that I was an interesting person and she was boring, when I said “he who dies with the most stories wins.” I can safely attribute 90% of my stories are not because of me, they are because of who I surrounded myself with – intentionally or otherwise. I think I’m a pretty boring person to be honest.

One of things that I’ve done through my life is to put myself into a position where I can grow as a person. To do this I’ve done a combination of playing it safe but making decisions that allowed me to meet new people. For example when I went to Pitt a big group of my friends went there with me. However, I decided to live with new people and ended up living on a floor with all engineers. Which allowed me to meet a ton of new people as well as hang out with my old friends from high school. This choice had a pretty significant impact on my social life and likely enabled many of the craziest of stories that have happened at my places. I met 2 guys my freshman year that led me to meeting the 5 girls I lived with where my HS buddies and our extended group of friends really did some crazy things.

After graduating I again decided to do something different than most of my friends. I moved to Austin. I had 4 job offers and I decided to pick the job that was in the best city with the largest number of people that would be my age starting – this is the main reason I picked Samsung. Because of this choice I met some awesome people and some really interesting opportunities in Austin and met my beautiful unicorn of a wife.

This decision then led me to the Netherlands, which was a practical choice for a Master’s because it was so much cheaper than studying here in the US. While there I was put with a range of interesting people and I got to learn a lot about Pakistan, Colombia, Turkey, Netherlands, and the rest of Europe. I’ve spent a lot of time around people with very different backgrounds, life expectations, the definition of a good life, and all of that. These have influence how I think and helped me become a more interesting person because of these experiences.

Now after moving back from the Netherlands I eventually ended up in Portland because of my wife’s job. I’m again putting myself in a new situation and growing and learning a lot of new skills.

If I’m at all interesting, it’s because of the people around me that have influenced me. I think that for anyone in highschool, college, or without kids take advantage of spending time in Europe for school or some other country. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and meet people with some fantastic different perspectives on life. If you can’t or don’t want to get another degree at least spend some time working over there. In many cases you’ll get special benefits being a knowledge worker and help learning about the culture and language while you’re there.

Go out an meet new people and try to learn new hobbies. This is really hard being an introvert. I know that because I am one. It’s even more important that you force yourself to do it. Not every day, but at least once or twice a month try to get out and meet new people and try new things – especially when you’re in a new area. I’m currently struggling with this and I’ve fallen into a routine of watching my friend from High school stream on twitch.

So, try to surround yourself with people you find interesting. Because of them, you’ll have interesting stories and through keeping a networks of interesting people you’ll be a “structural hole” in all of their networks to keep sharing new and interesting ideas to them. These all make you a more interesting person. That’s what I’ve done to be the person I am today. If i’m interesting, it’s because my friends are interesting, not because I am. I’ve written about the value of friendship on here before, and this is why it’s so valuable to me.

The power of friendship

Today on the Max I was unfortunate enough to hear a rather depressing conversation. During rush hour if two people are talking next to you and you don’t have headphones on you don’t really have much choice (I keep forgetting to bring mine). The conversation started out innocently enough talking about a guy that they both thought was good looking. Then it shifted to insulting the man’s girlfriend saying she wasn’t really attractive. Shortly there after the cuter of the two girls just cuts into the other one. It was absolutely brutal. I looked up from my book at that point and it looked like this girl was about to cry. Over the course of my life I’ve had a lot of female friends and I can say it was the first time I’d heard anything so unexpected, brutal, and uncaring. The girl saying this was commenting about the other girls face and how plain and simple it was because she never wore make up and didn’t know how to wear it anyway. Of course, the one making these comments was wearing plenty.

I can say that I’ve never had friends like that. This has really made me appreciate all the friends that I’ve had over the course of my life. I’ve had to say good-bye to so many because I’ve moved around several times. In some cases it’s been easier to keep in contact than others, but all of them have had a huge impact on my life. It’s my friends (wife included obviously as my best friend), that really make me work to become a better person. Dan of KBMOD fame has been and continues to be one of the major inspirations for my blogging. My friends over in The Netherlands encouraged me to write and really enjoyed it as well.

It’s because of these people that I’ve been successful and hopefully continue to be. In my most recent move in the US, I’m really beginning to realize how lucky I’ve been with my friends so far. They are fantastic people. I’ve been in Portland for 4 months now and this has been the hardest I’ve had with making new friends. Partially this is my fault because of where I live and how little time I have after work. Partially, it’s a lot of work to find people that you really want to be around. In a place where you have no family, it’s your friends that become your support network. Building the right kind of network is tough.

Friends are such a powerful influence in our lives and I think we underappreciate them too much. I’m glad my friends are who they are and I’m really glad I don’t have vicious negative people in my life. It would make life much less enjoyable to be around people that hurt you because they can.

Thanks for being who you are, you jerks.