3 Things Everyone Needs To Understand About Clinical Depression

A cliche at this point, but this is still a relevant chart.
Source: Imgur

So, I’m going through a LOT of overwhelming B.S. right now. I’m unsatisfied with my living and working situation, there’s a lot of various panic and concern going on in my family, I’m worried for the well being of many loved ones, and I’m starting to lose faith in myself and my abilities.

Basically, it’s the worst time ever for depression to hit.

Of course, every time I or someone I know goes through one of these depressive episodes, someone has to start up with their s*** thinking that they’re helping when they’re really just belittling us with classic catchphrases like, “what do you have to be sad about,” “just go outside and walk it off,” and my personal favorite, “it’s all in your head.”

Well, I’m fed up. I’m converting that soul-crushing despair into white-hot anger and dispelling a few of the myths that have been keeping me and people like me down for years all because people are too lazy or too ignorant to take the time to understand a serious psychological disorder.

Depression isn’t just being sad

Everyone gets sad sometimes; that’s just a fact of life. But the thing to remember is that sadness can be overcome quite easily. It’s one bad day or an unfortunate event that eventually passes.

Depression is MUCH more severe.

A depressive episode is so intense that it saps your ability to function and even perform daily tasks; you lose drive and hope. And you would lose hope too if you had to endure an inexplicable sense of apathy for weeks or, more often,  even months.

Depression is so much more than just inexplicable sadness; it’s a complex neural imbalance that not only drains a person’s will but affects people differently and to different degrees.

Coping with depression isn’t the same as treating it

I was diagnosed clinically depressed when I was about 8 years old. I have bounced around from one medication to another with none producing the effects I needed or, if they did work properly, quickly resulted in diminishing returns as I grew more resistant to them. I came to the conclusion that finding a non-chemical solution was a better alternative. So, I started building up a philosophy to help cope with those thoughts and feelings that crop up during a depressive episode. In fact, I’ve shared a good chunk of that philosophy with you right here already.

But please note that I said, “COPE with;” not treat. My depression is still very much active – often times without anybody noticing it beyond listlessness and exhaustion.

Because depression can affect everyone to different degrees and in different ways, coping isn’t always an option. Belittling people for needing to rely on an anti-depressant to achieve a balanced mind so they can function is akin to mocking an amputee for using a prosthetic limb instead of hopping around on one leg.

Being active can help… TO A POINT

One of the things that I got a lot when I was dealing with depression in my early days was that I wasn’t physically active enough. They kept telling that if I exercised and got my dopamine pumping, I’d feel better.

And yes, the dopamine from physical activity can help stave off the symptoms of depression (again, coping is NOT treatment), but it’s rarely an ideal solution.

First of all, depression often places you in a state of apathy where you can’t be motivated to act making it difficult just to get started with a workout routine (hence why I refuse to spend money on a gym membership like so many suggest to me).

Secondly, don’t forget that, at the end of the day, dopamine is a drug – a highly addictive drug that often has diminishing returns if you’re swimming in the stuff constantly. Addiction leads to desperation. And when the primary method of getting a dopamine boost is physical thrills, you may be inclined to do more reckless things to get your fix. Have you ever seen those thrill seekers that do stupidly dangerous stuff for fun? Yeah, that’s what dopamine addiction looks like.

In conclusion, don’t treat people with depression like sad sacks looking for attention. They really are going through hell and you just can’t see it. Also, don’t ignore your depression if you’re a sufferer. If you find that coping isn’t a working option for you, talk to a doctor or therapist as soon as possible.

Take care of yourselves, know that you’re loved, and remember – whatever you’re feeling right now, it’s not your fault.

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The Beautiful Sadness of Optimistic Nihilism

When you aren’t led by purpose, you are freed by absurdity.
Source: 9Gag

I have, on multiple occasions, been a firm believer in the absurdist school of philosophical thought. But lately, as my news feeds get filled with more of the same political drama and I hear more from friends being dragged down by the weight of the world, I’ve been falling back on my absurdist thoughts. To that end, I feel I owe it to those that may be struggling to go into the very core of my philosophy. And if any of you know of someone that that is being brought down, I pray that you take this view to heart and share it with those that may need it.

To that end, let’s talk about nihilism.

Nihilism has a lot of different meanings depending on what field of study you use it in. For the purposes of philosophy though, we’re talking about existential nihilism – the belief life has no intrinsic meaning or purpose. If you’ve paid attention to my long-winded speechifying on the subject though, you will note that – despite being born of the existential school of philosophy – this concept of meaningless and valueless existence is the very definition of absurdism.

It seems that, to the average person, a nihilist is just a gloomy, misery obsessed downer who seeks to bring others down with them. And while those people do exist and should be avoided at all costs, they aren’t the what the average nihilistic absurdist strives to be.

To an absurdist, the knowledge that we are all so insignificant in the grand scale of the universe is not a spirit-crushing thought, but an uplifting one. The fact that human existence is an aimless task with a definitive and likely fast approaching endpoint means that the only things of any importance are the things and that YOU personally prescribe value to; Only the things that bring you joy matter.

As for all of the negativity in your life? All the mistakes you made? The people that hurt you? Yup, they’re just as pointless. All of those terrible things and people that have tormented you will evaporate into oblivion along with you and the rest of humanity when our time comes. So it only makes sense to ignore all of that infuriating nonsense that only serves to distract you from the things that enrich your limited time.

Now, I realize that this all sounds very egocentric and self-absorbed. But if you’re the kind of person that gets enjoyment from other’s happiness (and you are, AREN’T YOU?), this is also a huge motivator to want to improve the world and the equally brief lives of those in it. After all, there is a legitimate case to be made for altruism motivated by self-interest.

To put it in nerdier terms, imagine life as an RPG. You spawn on Earth with a randomly generated character and are given a sandbox environment so massive that neither you or any of the other players will likely ever be able to see it all. You can build and grow your stats through the various quests you can choose to take or leave at your leisure. You can choose whatever class you want to play or even discover a brand new class that others may want to play as. You can customize your character with all sorts of gear you can earn through any number of means. You can go on party quests with as many or as few people as you want. But most importantly, there is no end to the number of achievements you can earn and no one knows what kind of great loot you can find for earning them. There are no boss battles, but those would just distract you from the thrill of exploring the environment, interacting with other players, and watching the beautiful cutscenes of the most immersive story in gaming history. And should you start feeling sad because you failed a quest, don’t despair. That only means that something amazing happened during that quest to make you happy to begin with and that you’re still alive to find a new quest or maybe even try that quest again.

This is why I embrace nihilism. I’m not miserable, as I’m often lead to believe; I’m merely contemplating what quest I should take tomorrow. I’m planning my next big raiding party. I’m wondering what gear I need for the big PvP event next month and how much gold it will cost.

If you or someone you know is feeling trapped by the world – like prey to a carnivorous and uncaring universe, please take these words to heart: Focus on your past only long enough to avoid repeating it. Walk through the things and people that hurt you like the vapor they are. Only YOUR journey and how YOU choose to make it truly have any meaning in such a beautifully brief existence.

May the chaos of nihilism shatter the chains that bind your soul.

Embracing Darkness and Why The Agent Hates to Self-Silence

“No, me; I will NOT shut up. This is some important s***.”
Source: Thinking Healthy

Just a quick stream-of-consciousness style rant today to discuss how I apparently have a ‘bad habit’ among my more private circle of friends.

I keep a private Facebook page exclusively for friends and family where I allow myself to get much darker in my speech and tackle weightier topics that I don’t discuss here simply because I treat this corner of my part of the internet like a business and I don’t want to drive people off.

But, if I’m being honest, that kind of pisses me off. I hate having to do that.

However, I got reminded of why I do that recently. You see, I share those dark stories and thoughts because it’s my way of letting others who may be struggling with depressing crap that I’m somebody that can relate, is listening, cares about what you have to say, and wants to see the world change for the better. I legitimately want people to turn to me for emotional support.

The problem is that when people see a long string of sad posts saying how I relate to people with depression, praising artists for speaking out against bullying, or sharing stories commending parents for being aware of the danger their kid may be involved in, they think that I’m about to go off my nut.

And while I may get annoyed with the ever-echoing mantra of, “are you okay,” don’t begrudge those people for wanting to check up on me. After all, they’re just as worried about me as I am about them. And I’d like to think ALL of us are worried about the state of the world. It’s only natural to want to be concerned with the each other.

But the fact of the matter is this; I talk about dark, depressing things because I feel that denying them is to deny serious look into the human condition. I want people to see just what’s happening in the world and understand how people are feeling until they have no choice but to do something about it as a collective whole.

Of course, I realize that part of the fault is my own. Nobody likes being told how much of a crap-sack the world is when there’s obviously plenty of good in it that keeps getting ignored (why do you think I post #GoodNewsFriday on Twitter every week?), but it seems just as easy these days to just ignore the horrible stuff and act like it never happens.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that we all have a duty to speak up and act when we see injustice and inequality in the world and remind those that are suffering that we want to help them. Go and enjoy the good things in life that keep you going; that’s your right and what we all need every day. But don’t forget to step into the shadows every once and a while so you can remind yourself and others when and where there’s a candle that needs lighting.

Three Things I Hate About Dealing With Depression

It's time to start mending myself... Source: Everyday Health

It’s time to start mending myself…
Source: Everyday Health

Oh dear, I’m in one of my funks again.

Normally when my depression hits on posting day, I’ll make up an excuse for being too overwhelmed to work and take the week off. But I made a promise at the start of this year; this is the #YearOfTheIronWoobie and I owe it to myself and the people that look to me for wisdom, inspiration, and simple entertainment to press on.

So then, to help others understand that depression is a lot more than just unexplainable sadness (as an unfortunately large number of people tend to think), here are just a few of the struggles that I deal with that have suddenly been getting on my tits today.

Feelings of Inferiority

You know that feeling where it seems you can never make anyone happy with you despite your best efforts and it seems that you are just naturally built to suck at everything you do and you lose the drive to even try anymore?

Yeah, that’s usually the first sign that I’m having another episode.

This is probably the worst part of depression for me since it means that I lose interest in the passions that would be perfect for pulling me out of the stygian abyss of my crippling apathy because I don’t think I’m good enough to do them right. It creates a downward spiral that I feel I can’t break out of. And when I do break the cycle, I’ll never know what I did to get me out when it comes around the next time.

Self-Hatred

I’ve made it a point of advocating anger as a motivator (when used properly) and I make a clear difference between anger and hate. But you want to know what the worst kind of hate is? Self-hate.

Hating yourself accomplishes nothing. All it does is urge you to metaphorically rip yourself apart when you should be rebuilding your mind and body.

It’s okay to be angry with yourself. Sometimes we just do stupid stuff and can’t believe we would ever do something that terrible for us. But depression helps it to linger and become toxic – preventing us from taking steps to rectify our mistakes.

Misguided Frustration

Remember when I said that the feeling of inferiority was the worst thing about depression? Well, I hate to contradict myself in the same article but, no; THIS is the worst part.

It’s bad enough that I’m being compelled to destroy my own sense of self-worth by an irrational force I can’t comprehend, but having that anger and frustration get thrown on to people I care about because they don’t understand how I’m struggling with my own emotional state makes matters even worse as it drives away people that could have helped me.

Of course, if people aren’t bothering to take the time to understand you and stay with you despite your rough patches, they hardly count as good friends. But that lingering guilt stays with you and makes it harder to move forward.

Wow, I feel a lot better already. Thanks for hearing me out, folks. And I hope you’ll hear out your other friends who struggle with depression as well.

Why We Happy Few Is The First Horror Game To Actually Horrify Me

Just a quickie to make up for technical issues yesterday. :D

Sad to say that I’ve been financially strapped lately. So, with fewer resources to dedicate to my sanity-maintaining hobbies and this year being more stressful than most (thanks for THAT, Brexit and 2016 election year), I’ve been focusing more on the trailers for the movies and games I can’t see/play just yet in anticipation.

That’s when I stumbled upon this little gem that flew under my radar.

We Happy Few is a survival horror game set in a dystopian 1960’s Britain where the Big Brother-Esque figure known as Uncle Jack uses aggressive marketing and even more aggressive law enforcement to force the citizens into staying high a flying squirrel on a euphoria-inducing psychoactive drug called ‘Joy’ in order to force others to forget their painful pasts and remain willfully ignorant of the real terrors around them.

Of course, anyone caught skipping their Joy is labeled as a ‘Downer’ and will be hunted down by police and citizens alike. Basically, think the classic Doctor Who episode The Happiness Patrol (complete with criticism of Thatcher-Era politics) with significantly fewer candy-coated cyborgs.

Now, I have a history with survival horror as a genre as they seem to do neither very well these days. You aren’t exactly struggling for survival when you’re armed like a space marine and the jump scares lose their edge after the 50th time. In We Happy Few, however, you’re essentially forced to walk among the very monsters that want you dead; creating a truly unnerving experience.

What’s more, it’s an experience that many of us can relate to. I have many close friends who suffer from social anxiety. I can only imagine that a game like this captures the feeling of being trapped among ‘normal’ people; feeling like the outsider that nobody wants and that everyone hates.

This game also touches a nerve for those who suffer from depression. Some days, you almost wish you could pop a pill that made you forget all of your pain. But then you have to realize that the comfortable lie may be even more dangerous than the harsh truth and that disillusioning yourself may just leave you more vulnerable.

I love good horror in all of its many forms because it forces me to face the ugliest sides of the world and arms people with the cold, hard truth. But, in terms of games, this may be the first and only horror game to truly fill me with dread.

Of course, I’m saying all of this before I’ve had the chance to play it. But given what I’ve heard so far, I’m clearly not alone in thinking this.

And let us never forget the moral of this game’s story; the tired meme of, “keep calm and carry on” is a crock. DON’T keep calm; your world is being run by liars, megalomaniacs, and sociopaths.

The Agent’s Best Worst Birthday Ever

Yes, it was worse than this.
Source: Billboard

So, now that Halloween is officially over (I personally don’t stop celebrating until Thanksgiving), I can start talking about other things that happened last month. Things like how my birthday was both the most painful experience I’ve had in recent memory and yet one of the best from a personal growth standpoint.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned how I normally love the month of October because my birthday coincides closely with Halloween. However, this year was quite difficult to enjoy.

A fair chunk of the issue is that this is my first year living on my own since getting out of college. As such, I’ve had to dedicate a huge swath of time and energy to making a comfortable life for myself. This means that most of my time has been spent away from friends, family, and even my roommate.

But it was the day of my birthday that hit me the hardest. I had just pulled up to my apartment after working all night. I was exhausted and emotionally drained after a half-hour of repetitive complaints from my boss that I had no power to fix; a daily morning routine for me for what felt like several months at this point.

I saw that my parents had called my cell phone, so I returned the call. After what felt like several minutes of explaining that I had to work that night and that I couldn’t see them, I had had a moment of lucidity.

I had not seen anything outside of the walls of my apartment or the rest stop that I work at since I moved. In my attempts to escape the trappings of my old reclusive live, I was stuck in a brand new box without the people I cared so much about.

As the realization that I was falling back on my shut-in behavior that I tried to distance myself from came over me, I wept. I wept like I never had in years. I just fell on the steering wheel of my car as I sat parked in front of my building and started sobbing. I had finally been broken.

But then, a strange thing happened. As I did my usual run of posts on Twitter and Facebook, I read the birthday wishes that others had sent me. It reminded me that there were those out there that still remember me and cared enough to take five seconds to let me know that. Still, it wasn’t the same as seeing a smile face.

That’s when my roommate came knocking at my bedroom door. She grabbed my best friend from work, got me a key lime pie, and didn’t want me leaving for work that night without it. Something about that small gesture just made the whole day seem worth being pulled out of bed. I went in to work that night with no regrets.

If there are two lessons to be taken from this, I’d say that the first it’s that – as sappy as it my be – there’s a reason that you’re here on this earth; because at least one person cares enough to need you in their live.

The other, less romantic lesson is that so-called ‘mature adult responsibilities’ will always be B.S. until they can be made to not interfere with the time you should be spending with the people that actually matter in your life.

The Philosophy of Fighting Depression (Or “How One Man Proved That Suicide Is NEVER The Answer”)

Sorry, no jokes this week. This is serious business.
Source: vistapsych.com

You may recall how I took a light break from writing last week due to stress. Well, part of the reason for that stress was that this topic was on my mind and I needed a break from outside interference to prepare for it.

You see, I’ve suffered with depression and social anxiety for some time. I often lose interest in the things I enjoy, I can’t stand noisy environments, and I panic when faced with even small crowds.

At my absolute lowest points – between 5th grade and junior high – I frequently had the uncomfortable talk with parents and teachers about suicidal thoughts; thoughts not helped by the fact that I had to deal with the news of one friend actually committing it at the time.

My thoughts have turned to this unpleasant topic because I’m currently seeing a new doctor in the hopes of dealing with these problems. In the past, I’ve been prescribed medications with little to no effect at best and even more negative effects appearing at worst.

Still, I think I may have found someone else to help me hold on to hope and happiness in the meantime and I want to share his teachings with you.

Albert Camus was a French-Algerian philosopher in the school of Absurdism who is celebrated as a Nobel Prize winning author. Despite his distaste for being labeled an Existentialist, his essay The Myth of Sisyphus tackles one of the most challenging existential problems in philosophy; the problem of suicide.

According to Camus’ philosophy, life is absurd and lacks much in the way of meaning. The problem with suicide (and depression by extension) occurs when a sudden event strikes a person during a moment of lucidity that makes them realize the absurdity of their situation and consider the idea that this is the fate they are resigned to.

But, Camus made it clear that suicide is a non-option. He didn’t consider it a solution because a solution is designed to solve a problem. Killing yourself doesn’t solve your problems; it merely negates them and possibly hands them off to others depending on the nature of the problem.

Camus also advised against the practice of Transcendence, the idea that our absurdity is a part of god’s will and that there is a greater world awaiting us should we succeed in outlasting it – the “this too shall pass” technique as I call it. He argued that it was a less than ideal answer because the vision of a different life threatens to distract us from the real world around us.

So, if transcendence is potentially dishonest and death is a non-option, how do people like us deal with the crap-sack world around us?

Camus came up with, in my mind, the most brilliant concept in philosophy; The Absurd Hero – one who, instead of being defeated by absurdity, embraced it and used it as a motivator to create art and work that expressed the nature of their condition.

Camus explains this in The Myth of Sisyphus by recreating the famous Greek myth of the man forced to roll a massive stone up a mountain for all eternity. In Camus’ interpretation, he asks us to imagine Sisyphus happy to perform this task. In doing so, he rebels against his punishment in the only way he can.

I try to define my life by my own absurdity every week with all of you by writing for this blog. All of you who read this are witnessing the end product of me taking all of the nagging thoughts and absurd challenges that assail me. I encourage you to do the same. Find some form of public expression be it, painting, photography, writing, music, construction, dance – LITERALLY any socially acceptable form. Share your view of the human condition that you may give your life meaning and help others find their own meaning.

In short, the guys from The Script had it right; the secret to fighting depression is, “[turning] the pain into power.”