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Category Archives: random tangents


Remember when I said I have some good news to share?

After years of refusing to create anything, in spite of my nudges to get back to drawing and painting, my mother would not return to making art.  Until now.

For many years, my mother was a professional artist, and was very good at it.  However, after she became ill, she stopped creating.  It’s rarely a good sign when an artist stops creating.  I nudged, I pestered, I gently requested, I nagged.  She refused to create.

But, she recently picked up a camera and started making photos.  When I saw them, I suggested letting me post some of them online, and she’s agreed to it.  Yay!  The plan is to add some of them this week, along with the photos of the new framed 4 leaf clovers.

When I asked how she wanted to be credited, she said “Just use my name… *Mom*”, and grinned.  So, that is how they will be credited when I post them.

Then she said something that nearly brought tears to my eyes.

“I want to put the money toward your student loans.”

The student loans I accumulated in college weigh heavy on me, even though my current payment arrangement seems pretty fair.  The interest is piling on faster than I can pay the bill, and the debt just keeps growing.  It’s my only large debt, and it keeps getting larger, even though I have been out of school for several years now.  It’s one of the things that keeps me awake some nights, and it’s one of the reasons I have been doing fewer charity auctions.

It’s interesting that we are judged no matter what we do.  If we do not go to college and end up struggling, people will say “you should have gone to college”.  If we go to college and end up struggling, people will say “you should have just gotten a ‘real’ job”.  This really has nothing to do with the rest of the story, though.  Just a passing observation of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” in action.

Of course, now, in spite of the realization that it is so great that my mother is creating again, and it is so touching that she wants to use that to help with one of my biggest stressors, it upsets me that my stress has washed into her thoughts.  My student loans are not something she should be worrying about.  But, if that’s what makes her start creating art again, I suppose I’ll take that.

But the whole situation got me thinking about how many others are in the same boat.  We’re not allowed to file bankruptcy on student loans.  There is an income-based repayment plan, but it does not leave the debtor anything for savings.  They can defer the loans, but only for a couple of years during the entire life of the loan.  And, the debts count as assets for the lenders, similar to the way the housing loans counted as assets a few years ago.  It all seems like a dangerous mix on a large scale.

So, I started this petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/483/761/623/

Someone asked, “Do you think it’ll do anything?”

I have no idea.  It was born of frustration, and I do not even know how many people will see it.  Currently, at 23 signatures, the petition has already exceeded my expectations, and with so many who are struggling with student loans, I’m sure there will be more signatures.

I’m not sure what happens when we tug at this thread.  I know I would much rather pay off my student loans than file bankruptcy.  But it isn’t fair to trap so many people in excessive debt either, especially when education is for the betterment of everyone– or at least, it is supposed to be.  So, sign the petition and share it.

 


My blog entries have been a little heavy lately, I know.  I do have some very good news to share next time, I promise.  I have most of it already written in my head.  But, I want to post this one first, while the thoughts are still fresh in my mind.

If you missed the first 3 parts, they are here:  part 1, part 2, part 3

This time, I decided to discuss social withdrawal since it is so common with depression, and so often misunderstood.  If you’re dealing with someone who is depressed and they are seeming more and more distant, yes, you should probably be concerned, but no, they probably don’t hate you.  In fact, it is possible that they like you so much that they don’t want to subject you to whatever they are going through.

While I cannot and do not speak for every person who has ever suffered from depression, I can say from my own personal experiences and observations that, yes, social withdrawal is a defense mechanism.  The world can be a harsh, unforgiving place, and it might be necessary to avoid it as much as possible when one is feeling especially vulnerable.  But it isn’t just about protecting one’s self.  It’s also about preserving the sanity of others.  I know moods can be contagious, good or bad, and I don’t want anyone catching mine when it is a rotten one.  Countless times, friends have expressed frustration at being unable to lift my spirits when I am depressed.  And, believe me, I know it is frustrating.  Sometimes I even frustrate myself.  So, when I am depressed, I hide.  Is it a healthy, beneficial response?  Maybe not, but it is “normal” with depression.

It has often been argued that, since moods are contagious, if one surrounds one’s self with happy people, it will help relieve depression.  Sometimes it does help, briefly.  Other times, it is only frustrating and depressing.  And, for someone who also has PTSD, socializing can be very stressful.

So, on the bleakest days with the lowest moods, when neither social withdrawal nor socializing will do, what does help?  Is there some way to be alone without really being alone?  I suspect this is part of the reason chat forums have been so popular for so many years.  Sure, there is the stereotype of the “creepy internet chatter”, but very few chatters actually fit that stereotype.

Studies have also shown that having a pet helps relieve depression.  For myself, having a dog helped quite a bit.  I always knew it helped, but never realized how much it helped until he died at nearly 13 years old.  I don’t care what anyone says about it being just a dog.  I lost a best pal that day, and that bit of it still depresses me.  I know some people prefer cats or birds or any number of other kinds of critters.  Pick a favorite; mine doesn’t have to be yours.   As long as it takes your mind off whatever is bothering you and puts you in the moment when none of that other stuff matters, it could even be a pet rock.  I hear those are very easy to care for, and you can teach them tricks, like “sit”, “stay”, “lie down”, and “play dead”.

Hobbies help, too.  Whether it’s art, or metalwork, or whittling, or basket weaving, or stacking dominoes, by focusing on some task, symptoms of depression are sometimes alleviated– at least for a while.

And, always, always challenge the self-sabotaging negative thoughts.  Many will not stand up to solid logic.

 


When this story made headlines just a few days ago, there were almost immediately several petitions which popped up, calling for the removal of Judge Jan Jurden for being too lenient.

While I still think she should step down, the more I look at her career and the responses of others in Delaware’s legal system, the more I wonder if she was somehow pressured or coerced into making this decision.

Someone mentioned in an online forum that it seemed strange to have a female judge pass down this light sentence, which was set up by a female prosecutor, and wondered if that was arranged in order to soften the appearance of a backroom deal that was made long before Jurden even saw the case.  This seems more and more plausible, as others in Delaware’s legal system weigh in to defend her decision.

According to an article written by Richard D. Kirk, Chair of Delaware’s State Bar, the plea agreement was made by the prosecutors, and although she could have gone against the recommendation and given a heavier sentence, it would have been unusual.

But does it mean there is some grand conspiracy to protect someone wealthy?

I would like to think it would be even more unusual that someone who violated a small child would not serve time in prison.  But, it is not as uncommon as I would like to believe.  The person who abused me as a child never served time in prison for it either, and he’s not even wealthy.  And, how many other times have we heard of sex offenders getting away with it?  Let’s face it.  Our system is utterly and undeniably broken, especially when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us.  For the crime of fourth-degree rape, the crime of which Richards was convicted, the recommended sentence in Delaware is just zero to 30 months in prison.

I understand the outrage so many people are feeling over this case.  I am outraged with you, and for you.  There are so many of us for whom this hits painfully close to home.

However, I think it is a mistake to solely put the blame of this case on Jurden.  The individuals who constructed this deal also share the blame.  And, let’s not forget the animal who started all this, Robert H. Richards IV, who perhaps deserves the larger share of our outrage.  Hopefully, his ex-wife will get every cent he has in the civil suit she recently filed.  I would be willing to bet that he fears being penniless and unemployable even more than he fears prison or death– especially now that his face is plastered all over the world.

But let’s also not forget, we must not become the monsters we are fighting.   Sure, my initial gut reaction was hostile.  I still have a hard time keeping my cool about some subjects, and this happens to be one of them.  But, the recent threats some have made against Jurden, the expressions of violence against her and Richards, the angry profanity-filled rants.. none of these will help our cause, even though the feelings might be justifiable.

None of us is served by creating more pain in this world, no matter how deserving of it we might feel someone is.

To fix our system, we must do it the same way it was broken– systematically, methodically, thoughtfully.


Though the original case was heard back in 2009, it is now in the headlines because of a civil suit filed by the victims’ mother, and the details have a lot of people understandably and rightfully outraged.

Robert H. Richards IV, a DuPont heir, was convicted in a plea agreement for the rape of his 3-year-old daughter, and he received only probation with a suspended prison term.  No jail time unless he violates his probation.

The sentence was given by Judge Jan Jurden, and was recently said to be based on recommendations by the prosecuting attorney.  In a recent article, Richard D. Kirk, the Chair of the Delaware State Bar said, “Looking at this matter solely from the 2009 perspective, before the private damages lawsuit was filed, virtually everyone would have considered this an appropriate sentence. It was not an unusual sentence under the circumstances presented and would have been available to comparably situated defendants sentenced by this judge and other judges of the Superior Court. Mischaracterizing the 2009 court record as the article did to portray the sentence as somehow inappropriate was unfair to Judge Jurden and the Superior Court.”  (Emphasis is mine.)

I do not know what kind of court system they are running in Delaware, but nobody I have ever known would consider this an appropriate sentence.  And, if we take a look at the tens of thousands of signatures from all over the world on just one of the several petitions to remove Judge Jurden from the bench, I feel confident in saying to Mr. Kirk… “NO, MOST OF US WOULD NOT CONSIDER THE SENTENCE APPROPRIATE!!  And furthermore… What the hell is wrong with you??”

I find it disturbing that this decision is being defended at such high levels.  It makes me (and many others) wonder how deep the corruption/dysfunction goes in Delaware’s legal system.

As a survivor of similar abuse, I know firsthand how devastating and long term the impact can be, not just to the survivors, but to the people around them too.  These children will carry the scars for a lifetime, and my heart breaks for them and for their mother, because they have all been forced to carry this unfair burden, imposed on them by someone unfit to be called “father”, who might never see the inside of a prison cell for his actions.  Their father did not protect them, and neither did the legal system.  Who will these children be able to trust when they are older?

However, there are thousands upon thousands of us who have been standing up for those kids.  Someday, these children will be old enough to find all this information online.  I hope what they see is that there are so many of us, even from so far away, who know they deserve better.  I also hope they ignore the comments people make about how this has “ruined their lives” or “killed their souls”.  While the scars and baggage of this will create very different lives than they might have otherwise had, and while the burden might seem exceeding heavy at times, their souls are still alive and are still theirs.  Though it is true they will never be the same, they will survive, like so many of us do, with no thanks to the monsters in our lives who would try to destroy us.  I hope those kids see that, in spite of all the wrong lessons they learned at such an early age, the world isn’t all bad and there are a lot of kind, caring people.  And, I hope they quickly unlearn all those wrong lessons their “father” taught them.

While Richards may have escaped prison, he can now bear the stigma of the “pedophile” label for the rest of his life.  But it isn’t enough.  I hope his ex-wife wins big in the civil suit.  While the money will not return what was taken from those children, it will at least be some acknowledgement that they were terribly wronged by this animal.  Ideally, they will get everything he owns and he will have to get off his ass and work for a living– and good luck finding a job, now that he’s on the sex offenders’ registry.

As for the judge, if it is true that she was only going on the recommendation of the prosecuting attorney, then they should both be fired.  They obviously have no concept of the lifelong struggle of surviving early childhood abuse, and do not take the protection of the most helpless in society seriously enough.  And, the individual who called this sentence “appropriate” should probably be ousted, too.

When our public servants are no longer protecting us as they should, it is time to get new public servants.

 

 

 


Virginia legislators are back at work, deciding if Medicaid should be expanded.  As usual, it all boils down to money, and who gets more of it from which decision.  While I understand the practicality of determining expense, I can say with very little doubt that if any of these legislators’ family members were ill, cost would probably be their last concern, even if they did not have the salaries and health insurance VA taxpayers give them.  So why do the rest of us deserve so much less consideration?

It seems the old stereotype of low income families as “leeches”, “freeloaders”, “addicts”, “lazy”, etc. are still alive and well in our state.

The Republicans argue that the federal government might default on its financial obligations.  (If this is the real reason, perhaps we should close all our schools, in case the Fed fails to kick in their part of the money for our state’s educational system.)  The federal government is expected to contribute millions of dollars per day, totaling billions of dollars, to help Virginia cover the cost of expanding Medicaid.  Now our state is facing the same kind of stalemate which shut down the federal government before.

I am not sure why there is such an argument over whether or not we should help the sick and poor.  All I can think of is that there is a percentage of our population who simply do not wish to help anyone they deem “unworthy”, and they have for some reason deemed all low income families as such.  We do still have “in God we trust” printed on our money, and a large percentage of our politicians identify themselves as Christian, or at the very least, supportive of family values.  So, “what would Jesus do”?  What kind of person would deny help to anyone in need?  Our politicians have a history of spending money, with the idea that they will find a way to cover the expense later, but they typically reserve that privilege for pet projects, and now that it would actually be the right thing to do, they’ve suddenly developed a fiscal conscience.

Here’s an idea:  Put off a pet project or two, show some compassion for your fellow human beings, and expand Medicaid.

It might even help our economy when families who are struggling no longer have to worry so much about personal financial devastation from medical expenses.

And, a healthy society is a productive society.  I wonder how many of the impoverished and downtrodden will be able to return to productivity after their medical issues have been addressed, and they are no longer treated as subhuman.  I wonder if our legislators even care.


As someone who has struggled with depression for most of my life, I decided to write some articles in the hope of building understanding and dispelling a few misconceptions about depression.  If you missed the first 2 parts, you can find them here and here.

This time, I’ve decided to address some of those “positive thinking” clichés which might help some people, but since most depressed people will overthink them and they will probably not stand up to scrutiny, they’re not so helpful to us, and make a lot of us wonder if a lot of people are boneheads.

Positive thinking has it’s place, and it feels better than doom and gloom, but perhaps what would benefit more people is realistic thinking.  The glass isn’t half full or half empty.  It’s 4 ounces of whatever was put in there.

One of the clichés making the internet rounds recently is “If you think positive, positive things will happen”. Sure they will.  Also, negative things will happen.  And, if you think negative, negative things will happen.  Also, positive things will happen.  Because, to counter one cliché with another, “the rain falls on the good and wicked alike”.

One of the reasons these things bother me is that many of the clichés are a bit condescending and imply that people are depressed or have unpleasant things happening because they are doing something wrong.  Some of these clichés incorrectly imply that we have total control of our situations, whatever they may be.

Most people do have some control over their circumstances.  Some have more control than others, for a variety of reasons.  If someone was born and raised in poverty in an inner city ghetto, and subsequently became mired in all the problems that go with it, and you tell them “If you don’t like where you are, move! You’re not a tree”, without offering any real, viable solutions or giving them any of the resources they need to move.. you might only piss them off, because what you have just unwittingly told them is “I don’t really fully understand your circumstances, and am blaming you for sticking around, so am not really going to help you. So, I’ll just stand here looking smug and wagging my finger at you.”

When my mother was ill, some of the so-called positive thinkers I knew actually suggested abandoning her, in order to protect my own interests.  Naturally, I did not.  I dropped out of college, which also meant giving up my position as a student employee at the university.  I gave up a lot of other things, too.  It was depressing, to say the least.  And, I would do it again in a heartbeat.  What happened to all those positive thinkers?  They mostly moved on to “happier” things, because my very real circumstances didn’t make them feel good enough. Thanks, positive thinkers.

It’s another issue with all these positive thinking clichés.  In our culture of instant gratification, some of these clichés encourage even more magical thinking and the idea that if we are unhappy, we should immediately abandon ship.  It causes people to fail each other, and that’s pretty darned depressing.

Here is one more: “Grateful people are happy people.”  While I cannot speak for all depressed people everywhere, I can tell you that my issue is not a lack of gratitude, and it’s not the issue of any depressed person I have encountered.  In fact, the depressed people I have encountered have often been some of the most grateful, because we have to be.

If we didn’t count our blessings regularly, we’d lose our fricking minds.  In fact, I think I will go count mine again right now.

 


Since someone pointed out in a private note that I neglected to mention at least one other misconception about depression, and since I also neglected to mention a few other things that help, I’ve decided to do a “part 2″, and maybe even a “part 3″ later.

“They’re just lazy, and they don’t care.”  While there probably is such a thing as laziness, it’s not the same thing as depression.   Due to the physical symptoms of depression, such as the sleep disruptions, pain, and fatigue, it’s not uncommon to find a depressed person napping at odd hours.  Sometimes they might even seem to enjoy it, because.. well.. what else should they do?  If I have lemons and make lemonade, don’t judge me for it;  all I’ve done is make the best of something sour.  Some people might say “I have those problems too, get over it!”.  If it’s true, good for them!  I commend them for setting a good example, but I also wonder how they have managed to measure the other person’s suffering in order to compare it with their own.  If it is some technique they can patent, emergency rooms all over the world will pay them big bucks for that time saver.

Most of the tools and techniques on which I have focused are centered on how a depressed person can help themselves.  This is because that is where the change has to be.  I realized some time ago that my own depression is not caused entirely by external things.  *This does not mean that it is never caused or triggered by external things.*  But what I noticed was that even when things were relatively good, I would be depressed and sometimes without even being sure why.  Nobody’s life is perfect, but in spite of even the worst of my traumas, I am probably one of the luckiest people in the world.  And, it is frustrating to have so much distress without being able to pinpoint a cause or cure for so many years.

The biggest difference between grief and depression is that grief typically has a specific cause, then subsides.  Depression lingers.  Among things regularly listed as causes of depression are loss, trauma, and even head injuries.  Mine could have started in early childhood with any of those things, and was probably compounded by various other things over the years.  Luckily, I have known some strong, stubborn people who refuse to give up, and they set some pretty good examples.

Depression tends to make one into a fatalist, wondering “why bother?” and thinking “none of it matters, anyway”.  Frankly, a lot of it actually doesn’t really matter– which celebrity is sleeping with whom to further which career, for example.  Seriously.  Who cares?  Frankly, it is a little depressing that so many people give so much attention to shallow, superficial things when we could all be devoting that time and energy to more constructive things.  Of course, for me, the realization of how numerous and widespread are the world’s problems can often make everything seem more daunting.  The thinking can become “no matter what I do for me or even for others, there will always be so many more who are suffering”.  Of course, the reverse of that is also true, though you might never hear a depressed person utter the sentence, “No matter how I suffer, it will never prevent the suffering of everyone else.”

But no matter how hopeless or daunting things might seem, most people are not entirely helpless.  No matter how hopeless one’s own situation might seem, everyone can do something to help someone else.  And, believe it or not, doing something for others can help fight one’s own depression.  It is one of the reasons I use a portion of sales to help local nonprofit groups, even though a certain friend keeps trying to point out that I can’t really afford it.  So far, I have not starved, although I do without a lot of things.  Life has seen fit to put me in a position where my own resources are currently very limited, but it does not mean I can not do anything for anyone else.  Nor does it mean you can not do anything for anyone else, even if your own resources are limited.


I have this habit of not titling paintings, which (among other things) eventually led to using numbers for identification purposes. Most buyers are perfectly fine with that. But when one of my biggest supporters mentioned it being a bit of an issue, I had to give it some thought.

What’s in a name? After all, “a rose by any other name…”.  Many of the “master artists” left their work untitled. If you wander around any art gallery, you’ll find many works titled “Untitled”, or with titles given by collectors and curators so the work could be more readily identified in records.

But what else does a title do? It gives the viewer a clue when interpreting an image. It can be a hint or confirmation of the intended message. It can add impact.  After all, without its title, The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living would only be a dead shark, preserved in a fish tank– still visually interesting work from an interesting artist, perhaps, but the title makes it more thought provoking.  Plus, without a title, it would probably have been just a little less marketable.  Just imagine if he’d gone with a name like “Pickled Shark”… or “Someone Killed This Just So You Could Come Look at It”.

And, without its title, Onement 1 is just a stripe on a background.

Personally, a part of me still feels like the work should be able to stand on its own, whether it has a name or not.  I find myself wondering, how many things would we still buy if not for the poets who bestow names and flowery descriptions?  Part of me objects to titling, partly because it resembles a sales pitch.  However, it does give the artist an additional tool, and another way to influence viewers.  It’s another way for artists to express ourselves, or to clarify what we are expressing in the artwork.

I’m still undecided about the value of a title.  But, for the sake of everyone else, I think I will name my work more often from now on.  If nothing else, it will save collectors and gallery curators the trouble of inventing names when I am gone.


Having muddled through bouts of depression for so much of my life, I think I am qualified to talk about what has and has not helped me and others I have known, though I am *not* a medical professional.  This is an attempt to help myself and others to understand depression, and perhaps to help manage it.  The aim is mostly to build understanding, because there are so many misconceptions about depression and how to help someone who has it.  It is *not* an attempt to garner any kind of sympathy or pity.  It is also *not* intended to replace professional medical advice in any way.  It is a firsthand view of depression, from a long term survivor of it.

Contrary to what some believe, grief, “self-pity”, and depression are not the same things.  And, although I have at times referred to my own depression as “self-pity”, it’s not an accurate presentation, so I will try to avoid using the terms interchangeably.  I suppose referring to it as “self-pity” is a way of making it seem smaller and more easily managed.  But, it gives the wrong idea to those who already think depression is just that.  While it might include elements that seem like self-pity, depression is more complex and with a wider range of symptoms.  Being sad doesn’t automatically mean a person is depressed, and being able to crack a joke does not mean a person is *not* depressed.

Depression symptoms can range from mild to severe, and a percentage of sufferers can even have symptoms of psychosis, including hallucinations.  Thankfully, my symptoms are not as severe as that.  I do have the fatigue/exhaustion, sleep disruption, anxiety, and pain accompanying the bouts of depression.  So, it does go beyond simply “being blue”.  I used to hide or mask the symptoms better, but it is just too exhausting.  Plus, it doesn’t help anyone, including and especially me.

From talking with others with depression, it seems the first instinct of a lot of doctors is to medicate.  This was my experience, as well.  I tried several different antidepressants over the years, some worked briefly, but none worked long term, and all had side effects that were as detrimental as the original ailment.  Another problem with medicating is that, with several of those medications, the patient is not supposed to suddenly stop taking it.  So, any lengthy interruption in health care results in withdrawal.  Yes, withdrawal.  “It’s non habit forming and non addictive, but if you stop taking it suddenly, there’s a slim chance you’ll drop dead…”  That’s not word for word, but…. Read the fine print.

It’s not that I’m against medications.  I’m not against them.  I’ve known many people who say medication worked for them, and with minimal side effects.  Antidepressants just did not work for me, which is probably for the best since I am currently one of the x thousands of uninsured, and would probably only have to suddenly stop taking them (again).

Alcohol also does not work.  Sure, it seems like fun at the time–at least, more fun than moping–but it actually worsens symptoms over time.  (Plus, it might wreck your liver, and then you’d be doubly depressed!)

Platitudes and clichés also do not help. “Get over it,” “Snap out of it”, “Count your blessings”, etc.. all sound like “Blah blah blah” to someone who is depressed.  Depressed people don’t want to be depressed.  It’s not a fun place.  Also, we already know there are other people somewhere with even worse problems than our own.  Reminding depressed people that there are even more depressed people out there.. is not especially helpful. Nor is it helpful to remind us that there are people who are managing even worse problems way more effectively than we are.  It’s not really just about the immediate problem itself, you see.

The emotional part of it would be enough, but depression comes with physical symptoms, too.  Headaches, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, sleep disorders, chest pain, digestive problems… and that’s just a partial list!  It can be utterly debilitating and interfere with every aspect of a person’s life. I think I can safely say that most who live with it would do almost anything to find relief.  Some resort to suicide.

“Suicide is not an option” is one of the platitudes often given by well-meaning friends of the depressed.  And, it’s not entirely true for anyone with the physical ability.  It’s just a really *bad* option, and is the one choice that removes all chance of ever making any other choice.  So, it’s not a viable option, and maybe it’s time to replace that cliché with something like… “I hope you’re not considering that. There are always better alternatives.” And, this one is true! There really are always better options, even if they’re not always clearly visible across a bleak horizon.

Of the things I have found to relieve the symptoms, nothing works 100%.  However, every little bit adds up.  The main trouble is that in the midst of depression, many of these things can seem impossible.  Also, it is undeniable that the source of depression for many is some life circumstance, which can be entirely beyond the person’s control.

Having a support system helps.  On the darkest days, perhaps it seems I only remember the disappointments.  However, I’ve been lucky enough to have friends and family members who understand (or at least try to), and love me even on the days I mistakenly think I could hate the whole world.  And maybe I could hate it some days.  Sometimes when I look at the news, the world isn’t making a very strong case for itself.  But it doesn’t really have to.

The world isn’t bad.  Some people and situations are toxic, though.  More than once, I traced the trigger of an episode back to specific people or situations in my life.  Once I got away from the person/situation, the symptoms improved.  Of course, it’s not always possible to remove a trigger.  For these situations, I work to change my view of it.  Like advertising, sometimes it’s all about the spin.  Some things can’t be twisted into a positive, no matter how one tries.  Try not to dwell on it.  Push it to the side, say a prayer for it if you like, move on to the next problem, and come back to it later if you must.

Diet makes a difference.  Meat and potatoes might be yummy, but get off those for a while, and try something more colorful.  No, not the orange sherbet, nor the rainbow sprinkles.  Fruits and veggies.  *Real* fruits and veggies.  Not from a can, and not just for a day.  Long term.  I’m not entirely sure why this seems to help so much.  It could be the vitamins and so on, or a subconscious reaction to all the bright pretty colors, or both.  It’s probably both.  Of course, it could also be the time of year, and all the warm weather and sun I associate with fruits and veggies.  But if you are what you eat, and you’re always eating some sad critter….  Just sayin’.

Exercise helps too.  But all of these remedies can be much harder to apply than they might seem to someone who isn’t depressed.  Nobody is eager to go to an aerobics class when exhausted and everything aches.  Frankly, the idea of going to a gym and sharing equipment a bunch of other people were sweating all over… just freaks me out.  I’m sorry.  I’m sure everyone there is healthy and free of “cooties”, and I don’t have any kind of princess syndrome.  But there just aren’t enough of those sanitizing cloths in the world.  Oh, plus there are all those people.  It’s a strange thing.  I used to like socializing more.  Now, I tend to avoid crowds.  I’m not sure if that is part of the depression, or if it is from the PTSD.  Maybe both.  The point is.. when I exercise, I exercise at home.

Some swear by meditation and yoga, so much that when I say meditation did not work, they insist I must be doing it wrong.  Perhaps I will give it another try one day.

I found some of Daniel Amen’s teachings helpful, in particular the method of challenging “automatic negative thoughts”, based on cognitive therapy.  Basically, since “all thoughts are automatic”, and “not everything you think is true” (no kidding!), there are some automatic negative thoughts.  Depressed people tend to have more of these.  By challenging those thoughts, it is possible to re-train one’s brain to have fewer of those, and have more positive automatic thoughts.  This takes a bit of practice.  I could be working on it for a long while.

Another exercise is to list daily 5 things for which you are grateful.  I admit, the first couple of tries, I was not sure I quite had the hang of it…. “I am grateful for not being that person.. or that person.. or that person.. or…”.  I know, I know.  I went entirely the wrong direction with that exercise.  I’m only human.  And, depression doesn’t mean I’ve entirely lost my edge.  Plus, being grateful for being me and not someone else is a good thing, right?

If you’re curious about Daniel Amen, he has books, “webinars” on youtube, and his “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” video is below.  Although I am not sure all of the suggestions he gives are practical for everyone (there is no one size cure), there is a lot of helpful info:


Of all the vices I’ve ever had, tobacco was probably the hardest to give up.  Even using the electronic cigarettes, I still sometimes just want a real cigarette.. and I have had a few of them over the past year.  But, a pack of cigarettes spread over a year is a substantial improvement over smoking a pack a day.  And, oh my goodness!, at the money I’ve saved.  The e-cigarettes cost roughly $20-30 per month, rather than the cost of real cigarettes, which was closer to $30-40 per week.

I still debate whether or not quitting smoking fully counts, while using the e-cigs.  They are even labeled as *not* being an approved method of quitting smoking.  Most of my friends and family members say “Of course it counts!”, but I still have my doubts.  I still get to go through the motions of smoking a cigarette, and there is still nicotine in the product.  In fact, at first I was ordering the highest nicotine level, which was actually stronger than the cigarettes I had been smoking.  I started joking that the real cigarettes were so weak by comparison, I might never want a real cigarette again.  Of course, I do still want a real cigarette sometimes.  But it’s becoming more and more rare, and normally I can resist the urge.  I even started ordering a lower nicotine content.

There is still a lot of argument over whether or not electronic cigarettes are really safe.  I would guess that anything unnatural has the potential to be harmful in some way, as do many natural things.  (Nothing in this life can be guaranteed as safe; even water can kill.)  And, ecigs haven’t really been on the market long enough to fully know the long term consequences.  However, we do know the long term effects of tobacco use.  So, any move away from smoking is probably an improvement.

And, because I still get to have the illusion of smoking, including the nicotine, I haven’t had as many negative side effects of quitting as some smokers experience from quitting “cold turkey”.  (I even tried the patches once, but they wouldn’t stay lit!)  I haven’t had the weight gain so many experience.  I’ve even lost a few pounds, to the dismay of friends who thought I was already thin enough.  And, I haven’t had any mood swings beyond the usual.

No more smoker’s cough or icky ashtray smell, either.  My e-cigs have been described as smelling like cotton candy.  Yum.

So, as tempting as it is to celebrate a year of (mostly) not smoking by going out and buying a pack of cigarettes, I probably won’t.   If you or someone you know might be interested in trying electronic cigarettes, you can find them here in a wide range of flavors.

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