Paranoia + Depression

The first time I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression I was also diagnosed with Clinical Paranoia.

And it seemed like my psychiatrist was holding his breath, waiting, nervously anticipating further development in my diagnosis.  Never before or since have I seen such utter relief plastered across another human being’s face as when he announced, about a week later, that he did not think I had schizophrenia.

Now armed with the knowledge that I don’t have what I consider one of the most complicated and terrifying mental illnesses there is……  really, schizophrenia scares me more than Alzheimer’s… I still find myself flummoxed by the combination of paranoia and depression within the glorious chemical soup that is my mind. The former causes hyper-alertness and anxiety and a sort of nightmare-quality uber-awareness of my surroundings, like being mindful but in a very dark and frightening way.  The later causes feelings of listlessness, anti-motivation, exhaustion, and a general mental fuzziness that feels antithetical to the paranoid feelings.

And yet they co-exist and even feed each other, bless their bits. Recent research has suggested that paranoid thoughts may be as common as anxiety and depression.  

So, here are a few typical paranoid thoughts and how I’ve learned to deal with them:

Thought: They are all out to get me.

Reality: Some people are out to get me.  Fighting paranoia doesn’t mean that I stop realizing that, yes, there are people who act like utter assholes in the world, including those who feel no hesitation in beating someone else down if it benefits them, including criminals out for your wallet or worse.  But when paranoia strikes, and I feel that everyone around me is out to get me, secretly plotting how to hurt me, I remind myself to look around, and try to put myself in someone else’s shoes.  That father attempting to wrangle three children into the car, while loading groceries and talking on his cell phone, holding it between his shoulder and ear?  Probably not out to get me.  The two young store clerks on a break, leaning against the wall and talking animatedly to each other? Probably not out to get me.  And sometimes, that’s enough.  Clearly, not _everyone_ is out to get me.  And the perspective this grants me is usually enough to get me safely to my next destination.

2) Thought: They all hate me.  

Reality: Some people dislike me.  But this is actually pretty normal.  I’m a fairly socially capable person, but not everyone is going to like me every day, everywhere I go.   And really, hate is a strong emotion that requires daily maintenance.  It’s hard to continually fan the fires of hatred, especially if they’re lit by one specific person; that’s hard work.  The thought that _all_ people in any given situation hate one person is highly unlikely.  Unless I’m faced with an angry mob, it’s not likely that they all hate me.

All these things seem very logical as I sit here in my comfy pyjamas, in a safe, warm environment, not in any way surrounded by a crowd of strangers.  But this is what I’ve learned of paranoia – I’ve learned to tell myself these logical things before I get out in a crowd and become nervous, fearful and paranoid.  Perhaps that’s the key – when you find yourself about to venture into a situation where you think you are likely to have paranoid thoughts, try reminding yourself…. They are not all out to get you. They don’t all hate you. In fact, there really is no ‘They.’  ‘They’ are just individual people, most a bit nervous in new situations and/or crowds of strangers, some of whom may also be reminding themselves to watch out for paranoid thoughts, just like you are.  And the criminals in the crowd?  Well, they are there.  But they’re not going to avoid you because you’re having paranoid thoughts.  So do what you can to guard your pockets and purses and bags, but be alert without fear.

Of course, you could also try some psychotherapy……

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*wink*

>^,,^< //

I talk to myself…and so do you.

Deny it if you will….we all talk to ourselves.  Most of the time it’s not out loud, though purrsonally (sic) I have a tendency to organize myself out loud….to the occasional comment and chagrin of colleagues.  But the internal monologue or dialogue is, as far as I can tell, one of the things that makes us human.

But what does this have to do with Depression Warrior?  Well, not just talking to myself, but paying attention to what I’m saying, has been one of my favorite settings on my personal, cerebral sonic screwdriver (Yes, Happy 50th anniversary to the show that shares its initials with this blog.). Because what we say to ourselves matters at least as much as what others say to us.  Listening to what we are saying to ourselves in our heads is like being able to see straight into our subconscious ….. like really listening to others, the practice of listening to ourselves can be revelationary.

So, the next time you find you may be sinking emotionally, listen to those inner voices.

Mine usually start having arguments with people I have conflict with, and, specifically, unresolved conflict that’s not likely to be resolved any time soon.  And, rather than being cathartic, these arguments just hammer home the point that some things cannot be repaired, which is a very depressing thought in itself.    Additionally, they can be as mentally exhausting as real arguments, and can bounce about in my head at inconvenient times, like when I’m trying to sleep or focus at work.  My antagonist(s) in these arguments invariably call me the most creatively cruel things I can imagine.  Ick. Enter exhaustion and decreased productivity, and it’s not a long road until this is one of those side effects of Depression that just perpetuates a deeper state of Depression.

Well, that’s all very bleak, eh?  Potentially, yes.  But we humans have the ability to change bleakness to joy.  Recently I’ve been working to change my inner monologue entirely.  I’ve been increasing my use of mantras, but not so much by memorizing loads of Sanskrit as making up my own.  As as exercise, let’s look at this:
1) What would you like to hear said about you personally?
2) What are your favorite parts of who you are?
3) What makes you feel great about yourself?
4) What are the best compliments you’ve ever been given?
5) What strengths do you feel make you…. well, you?
When you’re feeling off-kilter, what does your inner voice say?
Useless? Stupid? Ugly? Worthless? Not good enough? Lazy? Fat? Waste of space?

I asked myself this question, too.  If there’s nothing unusual about self-doubting, self-abusive, self-defeating thoughts, why should there be anything unusual about their opposites?

Should we really feel okay thinking horrible thoughts about ourselves, but then foolish thinking that we’re loving, intelligent, funny, clever, beautiful people who make great friends, lovers, spouses, parents, children, etc?  Why is it culturally acceptable for us to trash talk ourselves, but frowned upon when we give ourselves any credit?

My conclusion, as with most things, was to make an informed decision through experience.  I’ve decades of experience with internally thinking what a useless waste of space I am, so I’ve begun changing that dialogue.  And I feel very different after I come out of a ten minute loop of complimenting something I did well compared to a ten minute loop of cataloging my weaknesses and faults.

I’m still talking to myself, yes.  I’ve just started to realize what a brilliant conversationalist I can be.

>^,,^< //

 

deep thoughts 3

Being Overly-analytical + Depression

I am a firm believer in mind over __________.  Matter, genetics, heart, spirit, …. mind over anything and everything, really.  I’ve 
even used my several decades of studies into esoteric topics like magick, meditation, yoga to strengthen my mind so that, by the
less-than-tender age of 39, I can pretty much use my mind to change any given situation.  A lot of it’s working with perspective, as in changing mine, and some of it’s about broadening my scope so that I can see the sheer awesome all around me more often than I can see the piles of shit that humanity has created upon the Earth.  So, yay me with my mad mental skillz!
 
But let’s not bust out the port and celebrate my mind quite yet. I also have a tendency to be over-analytical.  And this tendency to be very in my head, and to have to pick everything apart until I know exactly how it works and until I understand all ten sides of any given story can wreak havoc with me if I am facing an episode of Depression.  Here are a few things I’ve noticed:

1) Being overly analytical whilst under the influence of Depression causes me to perceive dark, negative, self-defeating thoughts as the ‘facts’ I am so stridently trying to find in order to fight my Depression in an informed and educated fashion.  

2) One of the best ‘medicines’ for me when I’m facing a particularly bad episode of Depression is when someone else takes me outside of myself for a moment – someone tells me a funny joke, takes me to a play or film or concert, discusses something philosophical that does not relate to my current mindset, goes with me to a beautiful outdoor place, plays a game with me, etc. And, though it pains my independent little spirit to admit it, being an analytical thinker renders me incapable of getting out of my own head if I’m mentally unwell.  

3) Analytical folk with depression can get a little bit lonely.  I love being alone. Ofttimes me and a beach, park, forest, or lake, or a snuggly kitty cat and a book is the ideal amount of company for me.  As an analytical thinker, I sometimes get simultaneously overwhelmed by the need to keep up with groups of people in casual chit-chat, wherein I feel like a faker because I’m not really excited about celebrity gossip or football or the latest hairstyle, and underwhelmed by groups of people who don’t seem to want to discuss the history of psychoanalytical theory or the manifestations of Promethea in history and pop culture, and who seem a bit…shallow.  Actually, one of my personal warning signs that Depression may be barking at my door is social withdrawal.  For me, it’s a balancing act between getting the alone time I need and enjoy whilst continuing to go out and have fun with friends, some of whom gleefully jump on board with the aforementioned conversations.

4) Fun is valid.  Gleeful, joyous, silly fun is an important part of life.  Life doesn’t have to be deep and thought-provoking all the time to have meaning.  This is such a difficult issue for my overly-analytical self that I feel as if I should write it a hundred times: Fun is valid. Fun is valid. Fun is valid… 

In summary, we analytical thinkers live in our heads.  This can be a positive and useful state of being.  I think the key for analytical thinkers with Depression is remembering that, though it may not be the most natural-feeling course of action, sometimes it’s okay to reach outside of our own heads for help, for companionship, and for the perspective of someone who’s not having a bad spell of Depression.  We’re all alternately crawling about in and flying joyfully above this crazy muck called Life, and no one is alone.

Coda / post script: 

I love this chart from the excellent article 

“10 curses of the analytical thinker”  by Alan Norton

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/10-curses-of-the-analytical-thinker/

I highly recommend the entire article, especially if you’re an over-analytical type yourself, or, like my husband, you’re living with one.

>^,,^< //

Mindfulness and Depression

Psychology Today defines mindfulness as the following:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

A pattern I’ve noticed with my struggle with Depression is destructive circles of thought.  If you’re reading this you probably are familiar with the depressive ‘downward spiral’ of thought.  Being a practitioner of meditation and yoga and pranayama (breath work) I’ve trained pretty well to notice I am feeling depressed *before* reacting to that state of depression.  That’s the first step of combating depression with mindfulness.  When I realize it, though, I frequently look for a contributing factor – a why – that helped the episode occur.  Am I overtired?  Did I recently receive any bad news? Has their been relationship problems?  Depression is both a chemical imbalance in the brain _and_ a situation state for me.

But here’s where the downward spiral comes in.  I begin to dwell on finding contributing factors.  And the more I think, the more I find wrong with my life.  Which effectively amps up the depressive episode, making it worse.  So, what’s next with mindfulness?

I’ve found that at this stage of a depressive episode, accentuating the positive, or trying to think of all the great, positive, love-filled aspects of my life, and therefore switching the focus from the negative to the positive, doesn’t work.  It just stresses me out and eventually I stop fighting the thoughts altogether and just sink fully into Depression. This cartoon illustrates it quite well:

Instead of adding yet more thoughts, I invoke mindfulness.  I narrow my focus to the immediate.  If this episode is happening first thing in the morning, as it frequently does (I’m not at my best for the first few hours of the day), here’s what I try:
*Get out of bed;
*Shower.  When in shower, be mindful.  Doesn’t that hot water feel _ace_? Isn’t the scent of this shampoo excellent?  Goat soap for washing my face feels and smells awesome.  *And the sound of the water reminds me of standing in a waterfall (Yes, I’ve done that.  Small waterfall.  Wonderful).  And the process of showering is already making me feel more awake and less sleep-blurred.  Now, check out the texture of this soft towel.  Etc…..
*Yoga / Physiotherapy stretches, including correct breathing (If any readers want some recommendations for these, especially for dealing with sciatica, let me know).  Ooh…. that was a nice pop.  I can definitely feel this one in my lower back.  Ah, this one’s really stretching out my piriformis.  I am breathing in, two, three, four, hold, two, three, four; I am breathing out, two three four….  etc.
*Breakfast time!  This yoghurt / fruit combo is wonderful!  And coffee….. mmmm…… coffee.
*Lumosity – online brain exercises.  Just a few each morning to wake ye old brain up.

Etc. etc. etc.  until presto! I’m at work and can continue to be mindful, aka “in the moment” all day long…. and indeed, my new job is so busy that mindfulness is necessity!

You get the idea, eh?  Notice that in all those scenarios I left no room for focusing on feeling depressed.  It doesn’t mean my back pain is non-existent.  It doesn’t mean it’s easy. It doesn’t mean that contributing factors, if any, go away.  But it does mean another day where I can successfully function.  Even with Depression.

Abrahadabra!

Hello?

Hello! I’m short on time, and this blog seems to be a bit inactive.  I’m not keen on just spouting off to myself – I could use the time for other things.

Here are a few topics I’ve been considering.  If anyone wants to hear about any of them, leave a comment.  If not, that’s fine, too.  I started this blog to help others who are fighting the same uphill battle as me; if no one wants to read it / discuss things, though, that’s okay!  🙂

CHOOSE A TOPIC:
Chronic Pain and Depression
Mindfulness and Depression
On Being Overly Analytical
___________ (You name it!)

Wishing you a low-stress, high-smile day!

I can relate…

No matter how many statistics I hear about the prevalence of Depression, and how many, many people suffer from it, sometimes I still feel alone with my illness.  As if no one has ever had Depression this bad, or had to hide it this often, or as if everyone else with Depression this severe is on antidepressants, and otherwise they’d have shuffled off this mortal coil long ago.  Which is all bunk, of course.  But it’s also pretty typical of the isolating nature of Depression.  Knowing this, it is nevertheless comforting to me every once in a while to read a blog from someone with Depression who is, well, not me (heh…) and who talks about the ups and downs, and how we cannot let the bad days overshadow the good ones.  With that in mind, gentlereaders, I give you today’s guest blog, but one Mr. Wil Wheaton, who first crossed our radars in Star Trek and is now all-grown up (and, reputedly, and right groovy chap).  Enjoy!

https://wilwheaton.net/2013/10/i-got-better/

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Cultivating Your Obsession

Hi Folks!  
Sorry for the hiatus – I was away discovering Chicago …. and then I was back in Memphis discovering the stomach flu!  Eeps……  thanks for your patience.  And now, Depression Warrior brings you…

“Cultivating your Obsession”

Being obsessive has not always been a good thing.  Especially when I was younger, and tended to obsess on my current crush.  Thoughts of my unrequited, but clearly, True, love consumed me.   For a time, usually about a year, this person was all I could think about.  These crushes made me miserable, they turned me into every teenaged Disney heroine who’s parted from her love.  For a while, the following year would bring about the next unrequited, but clearly, True love – and each time this was my ‘one and only.’  

I scorn this younger me now, or, at the kindest, I cast a bemused but affectionate eye upon her, but I think there is something useful to be noted here.  And that is focus.  These obsessions consumed me.  Utterly.

The next time you encounter one of those fortunate few who is able to spend the majority of their time doing what they love and actually making a living doing it, pay attention.  Does this person seem excited and happy when talking about their passion?  Do they seem more alive; do they have a certain twinkle in their eyes?  Once you get her/him started talking about their passion, is it difficult for them to stop?  Do they seem a bit… obsessed?

So much of dealing with Depression is experimental… employing coping mechanisms by trial and error, and not always with others to lead the way, as not every technique works for everyone.  So, I propose an experiment.  Let’s call it Cultivating an Obsession.

As much as Stress can be a trigger for Depression, so can boredom.  So, the next time you find yourself staring at the walls, or, consumed with stress externally but in your internal headspace starting at the walls, why not pick an obsession?  Remember that sewing project you started and did not finish?  Or that 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle you bought years ago and never opened?  Or that novel that had a great 10,000 word beginning and then got put aside?  Or that kayak hanging over the car? Or…. well, you get the idea.  Pick something.  And live for it. Not to the extent where you shirk your daily duties or walk out on your job or somesuch, but just to the extent where it occupies your spare head space.  Until you get it done. And then, if you will, let me know about it.  I’d love to see DW be a bit more interactive.  If you’ve deliberately obsessed over a project and it’s helped,  I’d love to hear about it.  Comment away!

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