Who Are You Working For?

“Who exactly do you feel like you’re letting down?”

I had never really dwelt on the question before. I just knew I felt as if I wasn’t getting the job done. All my efforts felt scattershot, pecking away a little bit here and there. I could always look back at something I did and blame that for my not finishing something important. This was particularly true in instances where I had done something of no lasting consequence, such as playing a video game or lying down for a nap. I knew I was failing … but who, exactly, was I failing?

Quotation-Stephen-Hawking-blame-guilt-human-people-Meetville-Quotes-1595I’ve written here before about dichotomous thinking. This is when a person sees nearly everything in terms of black and white. There is no gray. Something is either right or it is wrong. How does this manifest in my life? Well, one area is work. Now, “work” for me can mean a great many things, which is actually part of the problem here. Going to my job every day is work, but I also somehow manage to turn writing this recreational blog into work as well. Therefore, I am very much driven by what I am supposed to be doing.

Here’s an example: I consider myself – correctly or incorrectly – a writer. What is the pinnacle for a writer’s work? Well, writing a book, of course. I have some ideas. Heck, I probably have enough material from this blog to get a pretty good jump on a book of essays. I just can’t seem to get anywhere on it. I have several theories for this – poor time management, lack of strong material, intimidated by the process of putting everything together, etc., etc. – but the bottom line is always this: I don’t get it done, and I squander the writing ability I have in the process, thereby making me a failure.

This brings the issue full circle, though. Who exactly am I letting down by not getting this done? I mean, is it potential readers? Is it my family? Is it myself? The only answer I could come with will sound a bit lofty: God. I have these abilities that were placed in me, and I do nothing with them. At least, I don’t use them to their full capabilities, and that absolutely fills me with guilt.

Another component of my guilt is a profound feeling of selfishness, and even though several people have tried to impress upon me the fact that I really don’t do many things strictly with myself in mind, I generally view myself as an extremely selfish person. In fact, I sort of view myself as a product of the society we live in today. Everyone is trying to get theirs, and even the people giving only seem to be doing it so they can be seen by others. Our hobbies are expensive, and our universes seem to be focused almost entirely on our own orbits.

What if, though, we’re all just trying to escape our own guilt? What if we’re all chasing these ridiculous dreams and kim-kardashian-kanye-westnotions around in the hopes that one of them will eventually allow us to look in the mirror and say, “Okay, that is the one that hit the mark!”? Could there be some kind of guilt hidden in the Kardashians of the world? Could the Kanye Wests be trying to meet some mark the rest of us don’t know about? Okay, I’m stretching now, but maybe you get the point. Is it possible that we’re all just trying to please someone?

So let me finish the way I started: Who exactly do you feel like you’re letting down?

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I Want To Stop, I Want To Go

Being institutionalized for a depressive episode is never a laughing matter. Nevertheless, I have a go-to half-joke I always whip out whenever the topic comes up.

“You know, sometimes I wish I could be institutionalized, just so I could STOP for a while.”

No one ever really laughs.

Truth be told, sometimes my life seems like a succession of stopping and going. I’m bored and don’t have anything to do, so I look for projects to fill up my time. I fill up my time with projects, and I’m suddenly stressed out and looking to drop them because I’m overloaded. I drop them, and then I get bored again. It is a never-ending cycle.

This type of paradoxical behavior has left me very confused as to whether or not I am a lazy person. Am I forced-relaxationunmotivated? Is that why I never seem to get much done? Or am I actually getting quite a bit done? Am I pushing myself too hard sometimes? Do I actually have too many irons in the fire at once? Or am I afraid to get involved with things I think I’ll fail at?

Who am I anyway?

I believe a common misperception about depressed people is that they aren’t particularly productive because they can’t muster up enough energy to do anything. While I have occasionally found this to be true, it is certainly not always the case. Many times, the problem is we are actually trying to do too much. Tell me if you’ve ever had this experience: After a week of general lethargy, you suddenly awaken on a Saturday morning with the resolve to complete every single task you have … that same day. Obviously, the day is not long enough for such tasks, plus you’re so amped up that you can’t decide where to begin. At the end of the day, all you have is a bunch of quarter- to half-completed projects lying around.

This may seem extremely disorganized, but you have to remember that, by definition, depression indicates an unorganized mind. There are so many other factors at play, though. For instance, I have a tendency to believe everyone is more organized than I am. As a result, I try to put up a front that I am very organized as well, even though I am not. Sometimes when I say I want to “stop,” it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with any kind of physical activity or work; it means I want to be able to stop being fake about who I am. I am the not the person I am projecting myself to be, mainly because I think no one will like that person.

Depressed people procrastinate, take on too much, take on too little, overachieve, underachieve. We’re basically all over the map, and that is a real problem for us. We feel bound up by expectations so much, and most of the time they are expectations we’ve placed upon ourselves. Imagine the conflict of waking up with a “go-getter” attitude, while also being thoroughly convinced you’re going to fail. How are you supposed to reconcile all that?

I have difficulty just watching television. I always have to be doing something else, too. It may seem as if I just want the opportunity to sit down and watch the boob tube. In reality, though, what I really want is to be able to feel like I can sit down. Maybe that’s why a little forced relaxation doesn’t sound so bad to me sometimes. At least that way, the choice is already made for me.

Tuneful Tuesday: What I’m Looking For

There are a number of songs I can remember from my lifetime that I just did not “get” when they were popular. Sometimes I was too young to understand what they were talking about. Sometimes I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to appreciate them. And, probably, sometimes I just didn’t care what they meant. Whatever the case, I didn’t appreciate these songs fully until they had passed their apex of popularity.

A prime example of this is U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” from the band’s mega-selling album The Joshua Tree. Those old enough to remember when this album was current will no doubt recall that radio, television, and virtually every other type of media was saturated with all things pertaining to the Irish rock band. As is my common practice when I feel someone or something is being overexposed, I eventually just stopped paying much attention to all the hoopla, which is sort of a shame, because The Joshua Tree is a really brilliant album, recorded before U2 lost some of the fire that made them such a treat to listen to in their early days.

Beyond the fatigue aspect, though, I had a difficult time reconciling Bono’s lyrics to the Christian beliefs he seemed to express. I mean, if you are a Christian and you’ve met Jesus, what more could you be looking for? Even outside of the religious slant, if you climbed the “highest mountain,” what else do you have to accomplish? If you’ve kissed “honey lips,” what lust is there left to satisfy? If Bono had found all that, what in the world could he still be looking for?

All the years later, I understand what he was singing about. Whether it is a symptom of depression or middle age or simple selfishness, there is still a large amount of dissatisfaction residing within me. Whatever that missing piece is that will make me feel whole, I haven’t found it yet. Religion, family, work… There is still something not quite right, and I have not been able to identify what that is. There is a peace and joy which still eludes me. Sometimes I believe I have found what I lack, only to see it slip away once more. Sometimes I wonder if such a thing exists at all.

I used to sit back and declare judgement on Bono for not being satisfied with what he had. I wish now that I could take those words of condemnation back. I get it now. And I’m still looking, too.

Back At It

It’s nearly 11 o’clock at night, and I have to be at work at 6 in the morning. Sometimes, though, you just have to get to a keyboard, ya know?

backIt’s been over two weeks since I’ve written anything here. Most of that two weeks was spent studying for the math portion of the GRE test, which I took this past Friday. Plenty of other things happened as well. I was given some devastating news by some people I really trusted. I’ve been to the bottom emotionally, to the point I even scared myself, and then I had to rebuild everything again. Through all of this, I’ve wanted to write, but I knew I had to take the break.

So, this week, I’m back, and I’m going to be detailing all those things I just mentioned, plus some other things. I’m actually not sure if anyone noticed I was gone, but I know I missed writing.

Good night…

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

If you’re a follower of this blog, you probably noticed there wasn’t any “Tuneful Tuesdays” post here yesterday. In fact, there wasn’t any post at all here yesterday. The explanation for this is pretty simple.

Yesterday sucked.

External factors were certainly involved. My mom is in the hospital right now with the symptoms of what is likely chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). My youngest daughter had a case of strep throat this week. My two oldest daughters are still playing basketball for a local Christian private school, practicing three days a week, and my oldest son has started Upward Basketball now as well. And, of course, as with any job, there has been no shortage of workplace drama to occupy my time.

Certainly a list such as this could cause a day to not go so well. The real problems, though, were internal, with me. I threw the day away. I stayed on the internet too much. I didn’t get enough work done. I was irritable with those around me. I did morally disappointing things I won’t discuss here. All of this put me in a state of agitation, guilt, shame, and depression. In short, I found some mud, and I wallowed in it.

Identity-ChrisYM-Blog-4-In the midst of all this, I began taking a new antidepressant yesterday. Most antidepressants don’t really start showing any effects until after a few weeks of use, so there is obviously going to be an adjustment period. I was discussing this with someone yesterday when they gave me a somewhat unexpected admonition: Be very careful to not to start identifying yourself too closely with what you’re dealing with. In other words, just because you struggle with depression, don’t let your whole life be about that.

So yesterday was a train wreck, today was me coping with the fallout of everything that happened the day before, and tomorrow will be … what? Well, I know what it could be. It could be another day of me filtering everything through the lens of a person who is struggling with depression. Someone who is going to do the best he can to cope with the struggles he faces. Someone who has to fight back the various temptations that have dogged him for years, temptations that will never go away.

Or…

Instead of focusing on the symptoms of my depression, maybe I could focus on ways to alleviate those symptoms. Better yet, I could start living as someone who has figured out what was going on with himself mentally and has taken strides to improve himself. I could put safeguards in place to avoid those temptations and realize I am someone who can overcome them. I could stop dwelling on all the things I’ve done wrong in the past and start living in the present instead. I could take one step at a time instead of attempting to review the past 20 years and map out a strategy for the next 20.

I started this blog to offer encouragement for those struggling with depression or mental issues. I wanted to let people know they weren’t alone, that someone else out there knew how they were feeling. Somewhere along the way, though, I became more focused on problems than solutions. I never want to pretend I have all the answers. In fact, I generally don’t like bloggers who claim to. If I don’t begin to think like an overcomer again, though, I am doomed to just keep repeating the same miserable days over and over again. When I went in for counseling over a year ago and began taking medication, I didn’t do it so I could remain the same. I did it so my days would get better.

So, to summarize… Yesterday, bad. Today, rebuilding. Tomorrow, hopeful. All I can do is move on. I haven’t been doing very much of that lately. Tomorrow would be a good day to start again.

Mini-Goals, Perceived Failures, And Running Away

It’s not often that I just come on here and discuss what I did over the course of a day without attempting to link it to some sort of profound realization or inspiring statement. Today, though, I just want to describe what I went out and did. Everybody cool with that? Okay, good.

10676177_935674526444151_1416051604518562695_nI had to attend a lunch gathering for my job today. Well, “had to” probably isn’t entirely accurate. I was invited to it, and there really wasn’t any good reason for me not to attend would be more accurate … unless a massive fear of mingling in crowds of people you’ve never met before qualifies as a “good reason.” Somehow, though, I worked up my courage enough to attend this event despite my brain working overtime to come up with every reason possible for me to not go.

As you may have noticed, I have been really into mini-goals lately. These are smaller goals I feel are more attainable than overall bigger things I want to achieve. For example, when my family and I went to Disney World last year, I set a goal for myself to start up a conversation with one random person while I was there. I could have aimed much higher than that and set a goal of saying something to every stranger I came into contact with, but that seemed too tall an order for someone who sometimes has trouble speaking to people he actually does know. I figured one person was more realistic, and I felt pretty good once I checked that goal off my list.

For today, then, I decided if I could just manage to speak to the people at my table I would be doing well. I was feeling pretty good about myself when I reached this goal after about five minutes of being there. Once the event was over, however, my slightly loftier goal of mingling around the room totally crashed and burned. The other guests started getting up and moving around, and I almost immediately bolted for the door. By the time I reached my truck, I felt that familiar feeling of shame washing over me. I had let the anxiety get the best of me again.

This event was held not too far from a local mall, so I decided that maybe if I walked around, drank some (decaf) coffee, and browsed a few stores that I might be able to forget that feeling. This actually used to work for me. I liked having the time to myself, to be alone, to look at whatever I wanted to. Today, though, the whole experience just felt hollow, mainly because I realized I was only there because I was trying to run away from something. No amount of shopping or coffee was going to replace that feeling of disappointment in myself today, so I didn’t stay too long.

In light of all this, I am trying to focus on the two smaller goals I met – attending the lunch in the first place and then talking to a couple of people while I was there – rather than the one larger one I failed miserably at. You can probably guess how well that’s going. People all the time are telling me how I’m too hard on myself, but at the same time I feel incredibly lazy and unmotivated sometimes. Or maybe feeling that way is part of being too hard on myself. I don’t know. This is making me dizzy.

So that was my day, from a psychological standpoint. How was yours?