Getting back on track.

sad zoloft eggI feel like I’ve got a lot to say about the last few years and my plans for the next few, but it’s hard to know where to start.

I’ll try starting here: I’m beginning to recognize that for the past few years I’ve been dealing poorly with actual capital-D Depression. I know, I know, here’s a guy on his blog self-diagnosing as depressed, stop the presses! But the more I think about it, the more warning signs I see now that I ignored at the time.

Originally this post was going to comprise a list of things that I used to enjoy that I don’t do anymore. It’s a big list. I’m going to write about some of the things on it separately, but for now it’s enough to say that there’s a bunch of things I used to practically define myself by that have fallen by the wayside: geek pursuits, Buddhism, music (both playing and listening). My abortive attempts at resuming flying lessons and at motorcycling are probably much of the same thing.

(Remember the “101 things in 1001 days” meme that went around a while ago? I tried to write that back when everyone else was doing it and couldn’t. I chalked it up to “stupid meme!” at the time, but in hindsight that should have told me something — in an earlier time, I’d have jumped at the opportunity.)

Thinking about the last few years of work shows similar patterns. Now, Mitel and I haven’t been the best fit ever, but at some point over the last few years I seem to have lost interest in doing things for intrinsic benefits: hack value, elegance, The Right Thing, and so on. Part of that is that my job has become more purely technical over time while I’ve wanted the opposite, but I don’t think that’s enough to explain all of it away.

In the same vein, I’ve found it a lot harder to get projects done around the house, whether they’re simple things like “take the car in for maintenance” or bigger things like moving furniture around or setting up a new fileserver. Stuff like that used to be recreational but it’s become a chore and there’s really no reason for it to have done so.

And I’ve lost touch with a lot of people. Part of that is that many of the people I knew in Ottawa I knew through e-smith, and then a lot of those people moved away after the layoffs. But I’ve got mail in my inbox from an old friend from my hometown that I’ve been sitting on for weeks, and people from curling who I’ve been meaning to get out for a drink with to introduce Candice to, and it goes on and on.

On top of all that — and the biggest red flag that I’ve ignored — is that I’m way, way, way less carefree than I used to be. Things used to roll off my back a lot better than they do now; I used to find joy in a lot of silly little things that I don’t anymore.

happy zoloft eggI think I can fix this. Going back to school is enough of a watershed event to start pulling things back together again, and I do better when I’m busy anyhow. In the next little while I’m going to be posting about a bunch of specific areas that I think I need to concentrate on, practices and concepts that can get things back on track again, and so on. I know that’s some dull reading compared to cat macros and diabeetus, but I can use all the support I can get.

8 responses to “Getting back on track.”

  1. It’s not easy to take that step back and admit that things aren’t right – even if you know it in the back of your head, saying it (or writing it) seems to make it “real”.

    Also – don’t be afraid to pop in and have a talk w/a doc about it – they may have some good advice for you as well on getting things headed back in the right direction.

    Best of luck with your new pursuits!

  2. I don’t have much advice for you, seeing as this is something I constantly struggle with. I’m here if you need a hand, a shoulder, an ear, a picture of horrible animal porn, though.

  3. Well, this is something that I know about.

    There’s a number of ways you can deal with it. The first is, if you’re reasonably certain it’s temporary and not chronic depression, you can start by drugging it into submission, which has the effect of getting you back to a reasonable-enough simulation of normal that you can function the way you expect to be able to do so, until you manage to get yourself back up to your normal self naturally. Plus, you get the advantage of YAY PROZAC.

    The drug-yourself-back-to-life approach should only be taken if you’re certain that it’s only a temporary thing. If it’s chronic, you would be better off taking a different approach.

    Chronic depression is something that you first have to acknowledge is there, and then you have to work with it. You need to accept that the lack of motivation (which is, really, all that depression is–it’s nothing to do with feeling miserable all the time: that’s just a symptom caused by not being able to manage to get anything done) is something that happens, and consciously work with it. That involves accepting the occasional zero-motivation times and working with them, and when there is any motivation available, taking every advantage of it to do the things you want to. And that requires deliberately Doing Stuff–much more deliberately than when you’re at your normal state. When an opportunity presents itself, you have to deliberately leap at it, rather than going “eh, I’ll have another chance at this”.

    Me, I’m in the latter category. I’ve had to put up with this as an ongoing thing, but grabbing the occasional bits of motivation and doing something crazy has almost never failed to, at least, get me into something interesting.

    But really, if you can handle it by drugging yourself up to your previous level and then using the artificial stimulus to get yourself back to a positive baseline, that’s much better. Drugs never did anything for me, because my baseline is much lower, but they might be good for you. Just so long as you remember to treat them as a stopgap while you get back to yourself, and not as a crutch to lean on as an excuse for not being what you want to be.

  4. pisceandreamer: Thanks! It’s not really that I’m avoiding the doc, although I don’t particularly like my family doctor for stuff like that. I just think I’m capable of getting on top of it myself and I’m going to give that a shot first.


    dagbrown: Thanks, I really appreciate your input. I don’t think drugs are what I’d consider a last resort, but they’re not really a first either. Now that I’ve recognized the problem I’m going to see what comes out of it, and then see if I need additional help even with it recognized.

    I really like your observation about the correlation of lack of motivation and miserableness. I think it was that I wasn’t really miserable that made it take me this long to go “Oh, here’s what’s wrong”.

  5. Run away! Run away to school, BC or both! Run away! ;)

    (Seriously, when I was at Mitel I was in pretty much the same boat as you. Going back to school worked wonders for me, as it was something I had always wanted to do. Plus, they let me play with the big telescopes now! Muhahahaha!)