The Life Saving, Soul Crushing Power of a Job

(This is a first of a series of posts that will concentrate on the topic of depression and mental illness. I am not a mental health expert or a doctor. This is not meant as advice. These are observations I have made during my life as a lifelong survivor of depression. I cannot be called an expert because I don’t have a degree on the topic. I consider myself an expert on my own depression since I’ve been living with it for almost 40 years. I hope if nothing else, reading these every Monday will remind you that you are not alone and there is no reason why you can’t start your own blog, write a book, get a great job or start your own company while dealing with any type of mental illness).

This message is for you, beautiful, creative and tortured soul. It is important that we talk about work and how it helps us stay alive, even on days when we don’t want to get out of bed.

J.O.B. or Just Over Broke is what you do in the hopes of paying the bills so that you can spend your spare time doing the things that you truly love. If you are an artist or enjoy any type of creative activity, the job often pays for your “hobby”. I write hobby that way because you and I both know it is much more than that.

People who live with depression and have to get a job face an interesting challenge that those around us don’t understand. You need a job to pay your bills. Your craft, whichever form it takes, keeps you alive. The dilemma with having a job is that while it is a soul crushing endeavor that makes you regret getting out of bed in the morning, it is the one normal thing in your life that you can count on. For people like you and me, a job is a little bit of certainty and structure in an uncertain world. We can go to work and fake contentment for the 8 to 10 hours we are there. We are often tired when we get off work because of all the energy we spent pretending to be “normal”. In fact, more often than not, our friends and family don’t even know that we live with depression and/or anxiety, because we make it look like everything is alright.

The energy we spend and then need to recoup, causes us another dilemma. When do we do what we love when we are always so tired? If you are like me, sometimes it takes months. Take this blog. It is a labor of love for me. On this blog I talk about living your dreams, your next chapter, your goals, all those things that make me happy. Writing makes me happy. Look at the date on the last post. It has been two months since I wrote a post. I had a project I was working on and I had no energy for anything else. So how do we deal with that?

If you are one of those lucky people who can handle your depression with the perfect dose of medicine, diet and exercise, congratulations. If you are like me and medications make you even more anxious or depressed or your doctor has not found the perfect combination of medications, or you just don’t like medications, I will share what works for me most of the time. Now keep in mind, I am not consistent. Sometimes I do the right things and sometimes it defeats me for a moment. This is a reality of life that we must understand. Even with medications, depressions and anxiety are sometimes hard to avoid. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall. It is OK. Just make sure that you get back up.

1) Exercise – even when you are tired. This is one of the hardest things for me to do. I admit that when I do it, it might not end depression, it does take the edge off. Experts believe it is because of the endorphins. I honestly don’t care why it works. When I go for a walk, most of the time reluctantly, I feel more energy after. It might not make me happy in and off itself. It does give me the energy to tackle other tasks during the day and maybe even indulge in doing the things I love.

2) Eating – whether you are a vegan, a carnivore or anything in between. There are certain foods that give you energy and there are some foods that give you a temporary high. Stay away from the temporary high because the lows are much deeper when you yo-yo like that. In my case, I love fruits. Some people think that is too much sugar. I personally believe there is a difference between sugar that already exists in the food and sugar that we make for candy and other goodies. My downfall? Ice cream and chocolate. Some chocolate is good, especially if it is dark. Too much of a good thing and we go back to that yo-yo thing. Find those foods that keep you even-tempered, those that give you energy and stick to more of those. Take the foods that make you feel bloated and tired an avoid those.

3) Sleep – not too much, avoid not enough. I do have this bad habit of taking naps that last too long and then I feel like the day is wasted. I discovered a while back that a 20 minute nap is ideal for me. It lets my eyes rest and recover and I don’t wake up groggy and in a bad mood. Find what works for you.

4) Study your patterns. I have spent too many years living with this condition. One of the good things about not been able to depend on medication is that I can figure out the patterns of behavior. What I mean by this is that I can sense when depression is beginning. Now, if you are on medication, this might be a little harder. Then again, if you are on medication, you should not have severe depression and if you do, you might want to let your doctor know. Knowing when depression is starting does not make me immune to it. It does help me deal with it more effectively and I have noticed that they don’t last as long.

5) Have a group that has your back. This group does not have to be big. Two or more people is a group. The important thing is that one or more of your friends are the kind of people who you can vent to. This is the whole point of support groups. If you don’t trust any of your friends, join a support group in your area or online. In my case, I have learned recently that everyone around me needs to know what I am going through. I spent too many years been called lazy or unfocused. My personal favorite is unmotivated. Interestingly enough, the worst insults come from people who live with depression themselves. It’s what I call the bully mentality. You are feeling crappy so your recourse is to make someone around you feel as bad as you. Pay attention on social media to the trolls and you will see it. Rarely does a happy person call someone else fat, ugly or anything else. They might debate points of view but they never get personal. This does not happen with bullies and trolls. The first thing they will resort to is name calling. Don’t take it personally. This is a function of their own self-esteem. Always look for people who will lift you up.

6) Volunteer – I know you are tired after spending 20 to 40 hours surrounded by people. That was necessary. What I am telling you is to find a non-profit that works in something you believe in, like rescuing animals, or an abuse shelter or feeding the poor. Spend a couple of hours helping somebody else. It will not cure you. It will help you feel how important you truly are and how much we need you here on this Earth right now.

These are just some suggestions of what you can do to improve your symptoms. Common sense dictates that you should go to your doctor and not follow any suggestions without consulting the experts. If you do something that makes you feel better, leave it in the comments below so that we can help someone else.

I found this cartoon on Facebook this weekend and it is a great visual. Unfortunately, I have no idea who did it so that I can give them credit. If you know, leave it in the comments below so that I can correct this last statement.

Competition

This weekend I saw a little drama unfold that told the story of how we view competition in this country.  A company made an Instagram post where they were obviously poking fun (and not in a good way) at another company in their same market.

Here’s the thing:  there are two ways to look at competition.  You can get to the top by being cooperative, complementary and an all around good person.  Or, you can be a ball busting, irresponsible, win at all cost (even if that means cheating) person who is disliked by many.

I always use the example of real estate agents I knew a while back.  These two were competing in the same territory.  They could have used ugly tactics to beat each other.  Instead, they worked together. When one went on vacation, the other  would keep an eye on the properties and if a deal was made, they held it until the vacation was over so that the rightful agent would get their commission.  They did not even belong to the same agency.  One of them was completely independent and the other one was not.  The thing is, they had each other’s back and they never stole the other’s clients.  Their clients were loyal because they saw how they behaved and they both flourished and made lots of money.

Now let me give you an example of the other kind.  I used to work for a company that made window coverings and they had one “client” who was famous for opening a shop, selling a lower grade imitation of the product and when they started getting complaints, they would close the shop.  Months later they would open another shop.  The entire time, these people would bad mouth the company I worked for and when they company was no longer number one, tried to take it down.  Their product was always inferior quality and their customers would always come back to us to solve their problems.  Who is the real winner in that situation?

Below, I give you a little insight on what I think about this but I want to hear yours.  How do you see competition?  Do you know who your competition is and how they play the game?  Leave your comments below and thanks for watching, and reading.

Last Post of the Year

My father passed away 11 months and 14 days ago. The only silver lining on his passing was that I no longer had a censor on social media. It is not that I was afraid of him as a parent. It was that I know he was set in his ways and I did not want him to worry about me. Still, there were times that I posted things that would terrify him.

Imagine my surprise when on December, his birth month, several people I know personally have started making comments on post about what I should and should not say on social media. Ironically, on my daddy’s birthday, I have something to say about this.

1) Do not expect me to conform to your way of seeing the world. The same way that you don’t want people telling you what to do, who to believe or what to believe in, I expect the same consideration. I am who I am. I don’t like using dirty words online and I have no problem saying them in public. I am overweight, overtired and smarter than average. If you don’t like me for who I am, I am sure you have plenty of people around that don’t like you either. You can always unfriend, unfollow or just forget about me. There are seven billion people in this world. I am sure I will make new friends.

2) I don’t care for what corporate America thinks. My father, my sister and most people who work in corporate America, cringe when I say something bad about a particular company. Funny how they don’t notice when I say good things about other corporations. I have a voice, I am going to use it. Most importantly, if there is any doubt around, I am a firm believer in capitalism. I believe in not shopping where I don’t care to shop. I will often criticize what I think is a mistake by any corporation in the hopes that someday they finally learn that the reason why many are going under is because they have made short-term gain a priority and if they don’t look at the long-term, they will end, just like Sports Authority, Comp USA and many others before them. I also believe that if a corporation wants to tell me how to think and what to say, then I have a right to do the same about them. For example, if I decide to go back to corporate America, I would never sign anything that says I can no longer state my opinion online. For one thing, I never post the name of the place I work for unless that chapter of my life is over. Second of all, it is nobody’s business what I have to say about anything. Third, my handle is rarely my name and there are plenty of people in the US with my name. If a CEO of a company can email his employees telling them that they should not vote for X candidate because that candidate wanted to start a universal health plan, therefore influencing his thousands of employees to vote a certain way, then I have every right to say that I don’t like X company because they don’t sell organic products. Let’s keep this straight. The days when companies were loyal to their employees are over so telling us how to think is now harder than ever. And just so we are clear. If any family member of mine is fired or asked to interfere in what I write, what I support or what I do with my life, it will be a thrill to see them in court. I have lived all my life in fear. That part of my life is over as the end is closer than the beginning and I now see that living in fear is such a waste of energy.

3) Politically correct is not the same as abusive, insulting and offensive statements. Having said that, I have never said anything offensive. I have stated my truth to the best of my abilities and for that I will never apologize. Unlike poor Steve Martin, who called Carrie Fisher beautiful and was bashed for it, I will not take anything back, especially when I am not insulting the person I am saying it to. If a third-party feels offended, they need psychological help because they should mind their own business. That does not mean that you cannot state your opinion. You have every right to say how you feel, especially when it is something that was stated publicly. Where this goes south is when people decide to bash, demean or insult the other person. We are now in a society where people confuse opinions with facts, and where we lost respect for other people’s opinions. We need to stop this before nobody can say anything because it will offend someone. And the offended people need to stop being so defensive.

4) We have created an environment where social media is only permissible for good news. If people share their engagements, marriages, children, promotions, etc. it is OK. However, when a person decides to share their struggles, their divorces, their miscarriages, cancer or any other reality of life, we are frowned upon and told that we should not share our private life. The last time I looked, marriage, children, promotions and all the other things were part of private life as well. Life is not all ice cream and chocolate. Believe me, if it was, I would be first in line. The reason why social media studies harp so much on the levels of depression generated by “social media envy” is because people are more interested in being liked than they are in being real. Where is it going to end? The saddest part of this is when you read stories of suicide victims. You have a family showing you their college kid’s profile on social media as they tell you that they had no idea that their kid was going through hell. You listen to coworkers of someone state how this person seemed so normal on Facebook and yet they were so desperate for attention they bought a gun and proceeded to shoot ten of the people they worked with. People are ashamed to tell their truth. We are scared to say when we are scared, sad, depressed, lonely or overwhelmed. We live in a society where “negative” feelings are to be avoided at all cost and medicated whenever possible. I have news for you. It is normal to be sad, it is perfectly OK to feel lonely, and there is nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed or pathetic every once in a while. Having feelings is not positive or negative, what actions we take based on those feelings can have positive or negative impact. There are people around that will not judge you if you are sad and many will love you in spite of having down days.

The reality is very simple. I know most of the critics love me. But they don’t know me. They think that, because they have been in my life for twenty, thirty or all 50 years, they know me and they know what is best for me. They are wrong. If they were right, they would know that when I tell you that I don’t want your opinion, I really don’t want your opinion. If they really knew me, they would know that at this particular point in my life, I would rather declare bankruptcy than go back to a corporate job. Nothing wrong with people who want to work at a job. Me? I feel like I gave up who I was to try to conform for twenty years, mainly to make my dad happy and help put food on the table. I’m done with that. I am now following my truth. Will it be hard? YES. The funny thing is that because I am 50, finding a job in corporate America right now would be harder than succeeding by myself, so I might as well give ME a chance.

Live your truth people. If you don’t, one day, you will meet your end and you will find yourself crying for everything you did not get to do. I have no intention of doing that.