I find that Depression can make me impatient, short, or ill-tempered at times. I just find the negative feelings bubble up to the surface so rapidly, like the froth on a just-poured glass of pop. And if the social filter isn’t ready, oooo, things can just spill forth. Unfortunately, I’ve also been witness to this in others. Funny, it’s easy to see it in others, but so hard to hold the mirror up to yourself.
So how does one become “long-tempered?” Seems a skill I should’ve learned along the way or something. I have great patience about some things. I listen to patients and families tell their stories all day long and maintain rapt attention(or at least I don’t look bored and I do listen well). Yet I find myself pretty edgy behind the wheel following a slow or inattentive driver impeding my progress. Rawwwr. Just GET OUT OF MY WAY! I get easily frustrated too when I’m treated like I don’t know what I’m doing or I don’t know anything. Nothing irks me more than lack of respect. And I don’t like to see others being disrespected either. Just not cool. So what should I be doing different? I am trying really hard to mind my business, keep my mouth shut and just do my job at work so I don’t get in trouble on that front, and so far, so good. It does get a little boring at times to stay in my little cubicle. But it’s safe in there.
What is the secret to not being easily irritated or angered by people or situations I find myself in? I can’t just stuff it all in, because one day I’ll just go off on someone, and it’s likely to be the wrong someone. I know it takes more than conscious breathing and counting to ten too. I actually met a nurse who tattooed “Breathe” on the inside of her wrist. I found this quite amusing, because as I got to know her, she was a bit high-strung and impatient. I suggested that perhaps she think about getting “Exhale” tattooed on the other wrist! Maybe a daily visual reminder is a good thing though. I am just trying to check myself before I blurt out anything that is reflective of my impatience or my temper. Perhaps it just means building a better social filter, and knowing who it is safe to let your guard down with…
Excerpt from the essay “One Cheer for Melancholy” by Susanna Kaysen
A couple of my friends are chronic optimists. They are often disappointed because things didn’t work out as well as they have expected. I have never had such a feeling because I’m a pessimist. I get my disappointment over with beforehand. If things don’t work out, I’m smug because I predicted it. If they do, I’m pleasantly surprised. Any psychiatrist can tell you this is a standard defense mechanism against disappointment and loss. But so is optimism—and optimism is a lousy defense mechanism because more than half the time it leaves you feeling bad.
My main objection to optimism is that it’s incorrect. Things are somewhat more likely to turn out badly. Taking the long view, things are definitely going to turn out badly, since we all die at the end. I once read a study of “depressives” and “normal people” predicting outcomes in real-life situations. The depressives’ predictions were more often right. The pessimistic outlook is actually the realistic one.
If the price of being happier is an occluded worldview, I don’t want to pay it. I’d rather see things clearly. Seeing things clearly, for me, is a sort of happiness, even if what I see is banal or sad. Does one of my friends turn on me every time I get depressed? Does another get pleasure from putting me down? Do the idiotic events of history continue to repeat themselves, with tragic consequences? Yes, yes, and yes—but at least I know what I’m up against.
I also know that I am supposed to say that there are serious drawbacks to the melancholic temperament. Deep depression is debilitating. As doctors and drug manufacturers like to remind us, depression can be fatal. Public health officials talk about all the time “wasted” by being depressed. And yet, it’s not an uncommon activity, wasting time in this way. If the depressive and manic-depressive constitutions are such a liability, why are they rather prevalent in the human population? One answer may be balance. Together we make a complete picture.
So, I guess that’s why my nursing career has led me to the cheery field of hospice. Suits my melancholy personality just fine, no one expects me to be Sally Sunshine, and everybody knows what to expect at the end. The goal is always the same, a peaceful death. What more can you ask for? That’s pretty optimistic, isn’t it?
My sorrow, when she’s here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane. —-Robert Frost
Sometimes the weather can seriously affect the mood. I find changes in barometric pressure, such as when storm fronts are moving in, can trigger sinus and migraine headaches. That in itself is enough to bring on a negative attitude and decreased coping. Some people respond to seasonal changes and suffer due to lack of natural sunlight (Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD). They become depressed during the darker months of fall and winter. Strange as it may seem, my problem has always been the opposite…my major depressive episodes have always occurred during late spring and summer. Can’t blame it on lack of sunshine, that’s for sure.
Of course, I don’t think I could tolerate living somewhere like the Pacific Northwest which has less sunny days than we have here in Ohio. I also would not survive closer to the North Pole with the limited hours of daylight throughout the winter. Might be nice to see the northern lights, but no way am I going to live that far north.
Multiple cloudy/rainy days strung together do get me down though. It goes beyond the rain being a healthful cleansing, nourishing thing, to being a washed out, soggy mess. Too much of anything is not good. Just makes me feel sleepy, unmotivated, and wanting to cocoon all day in bed. Even people who don’t appear to have a problem with Depression seem to get down when we have a long stretch of gloomy, rainy weather. Everyone gets irritable and cranky.
Seems we are all in physical need of sunshine as well. Many people as of late seem to be testing low on levels of Vitamin D, which the body manufactures when exposed to sunlight. It’s also available in some foods, but there has been an increased need for supplementation. Research is pointing toward an association between low Vitamin D levels and Depression according to the Vitamin D Council’s website. Can’t hurt to get it checked out with your physician to make sure you are getting enough, apparently my levels were very low, and I take supplements.
Since I can’t change the weather, I just have to continue to work on the alternatives to improve my mental health. Of course it takes more than sunshine and Vitamin D, but every little bit helps.
Ever been told just to “think positive” or “positive thoughts lead to positive feelings?” It would be great if it worked. But, you can’t think yourself out of Diabetes or Asthma, so it’s kind of insulting to be told to “think” your way out of Depression. Not possible. No way, no how. Nice try. How’s that for negative?!?
Not that a depressed person is able to concentrate all that well. At my worst, I’m lucky I can think my way through a grocery list. And putting a whole meal together is a major accomplishment. Please don’t ask me to make any decisions, big or small. I’ll be absolutely paralyzed. As in, I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not sure.
So, it’s not just about feeling bad and sad, but so many other synapses that have gone awry too. You can’t even be the judge of how well you are thinking either. Then the stigma of mental illness inhibits you from talking to anyone about how your thinking may be coming across in interactions with others. So you tend to withdraw, keeping to yourself as a means of protection and also to avoid saying anything negative that might offend someone.
Current treatment in therapy focuses on realistic thinking instead of positive thinking. Realistic thinking isn’t sugar-coated, and is simply fact/reality based. Being realistic decreases the potential risk of failure and disappointment. Positive thinking may set unrealistic expectations or goals that remain out of reach and reinforce negative outcomes. This suits me soooo much better than trying so hard to be something I’m not. I can’t force myself to feel a certain way, I don’t think anyone is capable of that. I just don’t believe in “fake it til you make it” as a philosophy of care for Depression. Now I just have to deal with the reality that drags me down to the dark places, so I can stay on the surface, and enjoy the sun with everyone else.
I have officially established my blog. Harder than it looks, I guess. Title comes courtesy of a few sources; Electric Light Orchestra, creator of sad love songs, Thomas Moore, writer of dark themes, and my latest therapist, who recently called me the “Poster Child for Depression.” I obviously earned that, as I can spend an entire session in her office, quickly welling up tears and honking into tissues. First session she was definitely under-supplied. She hasn’t made that mistake since, and always assures me I may keep the box right beside me. I think that is really funny for some reason, or maybe she wants to be sure I don’t get my snotty hands on her leather couch. She is very kind to me, don’t get me wrong. And that is the essence of the problem, I fear. I am SO NEGATIVE. As Janine Garofalo once said, I see the glass as not only half full, but practically empty. And cracked. And I cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth. Being depressed just gives me a different perspective on life. I guess I didn’t see it as all that horrible, I thought I was fairly functional until just recently…it is so insidious how it just creeps up on you. I was just using the label of “my second language is sarcasm” to get by. I know a lot of people like that. Are they all depressed??? Scary thought.
Like I said, I felt pretty functional, going to work, doing household chores, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. Looking back, yeah, I have been sleeping more, eating more, feeling sluggish, more headaches. I just thought it was this crazy job and the stress it was causing me. So I got a new job. How could I be depressed but be able to obtain a new job? And then two months later, my negative “attitude” helped me out the door. I don’t think that was the only issue, but, of course my issues have issues. I had already gotten back into therapy, I knew that I was more depressed than usual.
Probably started with the chest pain.