Feeling vs. Being

In every appointment I have with a mental health professional, there’s one question they ask that comes up every single time: “Do you have feelings of hopelessness?” It happens so often that sometimes I smile when it’s asked (which likely doesn’t reassure the person asking it) because I know that more often than not, the answer is yes.

Feeling hopeless is a very common symptom of depression, and it makes sense why that is. When other symptoms of depression start popping up, I’m not exactly filled with hope that life is wonderful and everything is going to be great. I’m usually filled with quite the opposite. So it can be a natural progression from other symptoms into feelings of hopelessness because sometimes, that’s the only logical direction I can head in.

I’d also like you to keep in mind that personality has an impact on what type of ‘hopelessness’ you’re feeling. I have several friends who are into personality tests and questionnaires, and over the years I’ve learned about some of my tendencies and personality traits. For someone who is guided by emotion and feelings over logic and reason, that feeling of hopelessness is (at least to me) can sometimes hit me a bit harder than it might for someone else. This might not sound like a good thing, but I would argue that it’s not so bad either – it’s just the way I am.

What these feelings of hopelessness have taught me over the years is that there is a difference between feeling hopeless and being hopeless. This ‘feeling’ vs. ‘being’ is something I struggle with daily, but the more I combat it the stronger I become. I haven’t figured out all the intricacies and detail of this revelation yet, but I do know that once I made this realization, it changed how I viewed my depression. I hope that as you’re going through your week you are able to differentiate between what you’re feeling and who you are because they’re not the same thing – and it took years of me feeling hopeless to realize that.

 

 

How Busy Should I Be?

Things are very busy in my life right now. Between my job and an online course I’m taking, I feel like I haven’t had time to myself in quite awhile. I know I should be more annoyed by that fact, but I’m not…and it has a lot to do with my mental illness.

When my mind is occupied, when my life is busy, things are good for me mentally. I go from one task to another focused and in control and, though it is exhausting, it keeps my mind at ease. When I am not as busy, however, is when things can take a turn. My mind wanders, and not in the fun, daydreaming type of thinking that can happen when you don’t have much to focus on. I don’t like going there, but when I am not busy it’s almost a force of habit to have negative thoughts.

So, where does this leave us? Should I stay busy forever? That could be a possibility. Keep my days full with activities and things to do, and then I never have to confront my anxiety and depression again. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But I don’t think it’s possible for me. As an introvert by nature, I need time to recharge after doing things with people, so I can’t feasibly be as active as I would want to be – it’s simply not possible.

I wrote about this a few months ago about having alone time, and why I was afraid of that. I’m less afraid now, but there’s something that’s still stopping me from being alone, something that I’ve been conditioned to think after years of being crippled by depression. When I am alone, I am unable to do things. I don’t go out alone, I don’t go on walks alone, I don’t just hang out alone.

For the longest time, when I was not busy that meant I was depressed, and so I could not do anything by myself. While that can still be the case, it is not the norm for me as it once was. It sounds weird for me to say, but sometimes I don’t have anything to do and I’m not thinking about how much I hate myself. And that is when I truly do not know what to do.

So what do I do now? How do you pass the time when you don’t have anything to do. I want to hear from you!

Keep On Telling Your Story

I’m a huge NBA fan, so of course I was interested when I first heard about DeMar DeRozan’s interview with The Toronto Star. I’ve written in the past about how masculinity plays a role in the mental health conversation, so while reading the interview made me feel for DeMar (as it always does when I read about someone opening up about their struggles), it made me feel some hope that the mental health conversation can make its way into professional sports, an area where it has always been considered pretty taboo.

It’s no secret that when someone shares their thoughts on mental health, especially a celebrity or public figure, I want to let people know so that we can continue the conversation. Sometimes when someone speaks out it can be a drop in the bucket. But then Kevin Love wrote something for The Players Tribune (you can check it out here) about a panic attack he had earlier this season. His experience, though different from DeRozan’s, hit on the same notes, writing, “You learn what it takes to “be a man.” It’s like a playbook: Be strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own.” These men are opening up about their mental health in a way that hasn’t really happened in the NBA before.

Love saying that he was partially inspired to share his experience because of DeMar DeRozan’s interview spoke volumes about stigmas can fade away once you realize you aren’t alone. Because of these two, another NBA player, Kelly Oubre of the Washington Wizards, opened up about his mental health as well, in part because of what Love and DeRozan had to say. This is important because it shows not only how powerful stigmas can be, but the chain reaction that can occur when someone speaks out about their own experience.

More power to these men, and I truly hope this is the beginning of the mental health conversation in the NBA.

 

Things Get Better…Right?

Whether I’m in a funk or not, I ask this question fairly often: are things ever going to get better? Whether it’s something good or bad, I tend to ask this question after big events or moments in my life. To me, things can always be better because – whether or not good things happen to me – I’m usually too sad, tired or anxious to see the good things happening around me, so by that logic they can always be improved.

It took me a long time, but I finally stopped asking that question when it occurred to me that it didn’t matter how things were, or how life was going. What mattered was how I felt about those things, and how I felt about life. And there’s where I realized there was a problem. I wasn’t asking are things ever going to get better; I was asking, am ever going to get better? And that’s the real question that scared me.

One of the first times I was in a psychiatrist’s office they told me I might not ever get better. That it was a possibility that I would have to live with this for a long time. That some people deal with their depression better than others. Granted, this was because I pressed them on these subjects and wanted their opinion, but the reality of the situation was heavy. I might not ever be 100 percent healthy again.

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Five years after that conversation, I’m still not sure. But I am able to discern the stark difference between my mental health and the external things in my life. I’m able to stop asking if things are ever going to get better because I recognize that I have some power over those things – maybe not the power to overcome them all the time, but the power to fight back.

No, you can’t win every battle with mental illnesses that you have. But you can live to fight another day, and sometimes that’s as good as winning; on occasion it’s even better than winning. Because you know things will get better, because they can start and end with you. And let me tell you something friends, that’s a feeling unlike any other.

Why I Don’t Want Alone Time

_Man, it feels good to be alone sometimesGod I gotta say those are my favorite nights._I’m introverted by nature, so spending time with groups of people tires me out pretty quickly. Introverted people typically need time to themselves to recharge their batteries, to be alone with their thoughts. They’re typically more reflective than most because they feed off that solitude.

I’m speculating, of course, because that’s merely been my experience as an introverted person, but I’ve heard from friends that they can be the same way (how do you think we became friends?). However, if you combine an introvert with a mental illness, that alone time becomes increasingly more complicated – and not easy to come by.

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