Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Depression Post #2: Recently . . .

In yesterday’s post, I talked about my struggle with depression and anxiety and the ways in which I have been able to keep both conditions-- for the most part--in check.  I also alluded to the fact that I have been having a rough go of it the last few months and promised to discuss these challenges in more detail today.

Many of the challenges that I have experienced are, in large part, connected to my having a Type-A personality.  I’m a notorious workaholic who likes to take charge and organize everything; I’m conscientious, organized, and goal driven.  When you have a project that you need to see though, I’m the person to call.  While these qualities are all well and good in the workplace, they have a major downside for me personally.

First of all, I have absolutely no patience for laziness, ambivalence, or anyone who doesn’t work as hard or to the same level as me.  As a result, I take on more than my fair share of a project so it’s “done right.”  Then, because I have been doing everything, I feel taken advantage of because I have been doing everything.  When, as it inevitably happens, someone (or someones) become critical of me or the work I have done, I become deeply hurt and resentful of the critique . . . and I break down.

The past few months, I have taken on the challenge of planning two big school events.  While I have had lots of administrative support, it’s been a challenge to corral all of the kid’s ideas and plan events that are both affordable and obtainable.  Moral and financial support aside, I have been putting these events together by myself; anyone who has ever managed student groups and budgets simultaneously can speak to the difficulty of this task and the mercuriality of teenagers.  Suffice it to say, about a week ago, I was at the end of a very frayed rope when a handful of snotty remarks made me snap.  I lived a teacher’s worst nightmare: I started crying in the middle of class-- a torrent of crocodile tears that took several minutes and some pep-talking to pull me out of.  Luckily, I had a regularly scheduled therapist appointment that evening and was able to get slowly back on the right track.

The problem with being a Type-A personality, the problem with being a highly-motivated perfectionist in general, my therapist told me is that you give too much of yourself and others aren’t inclined to return the efforts.  When you keep taking on projects and become the person that everyone relies on, you are the person that EVERYONE relies on.  There is only so much one person can take on before, like me, they begin to feel badly done by and resentful.

At my wit’s end, my only course of action, my therapist told me, was the delegate tasks and not take on any additional project or task unless they are personally enjoyable to me.  In my instance, the key to successful delegation is to pass the task to someone who is capable and then divorce myself from the task; I can’t be overly critical of how the task is completed (if its to my specifications or not) because I gave it to someone else to do.

Over the past two weeks, this is exactly what I have done.  What tasks I have taken on have only been ones that are personally enjoyable for me, tie into my strengths, and come with some concessions that make the project less taxing on me personally.

While I still don’t feel as though I am back to “fighting shape,” I don’t feel as taken advantage of either.  Though it’s difficult to say “no” or to pass a task off to someone else, it’s important to know your personal limitations and to respect them.  When you don’t observe your own boundaries, you cannot expect anyone else to observe them either.

In my own case the desire to have everything done PERFECTLY often overtakes my need to take care of my basic needs (eating right, getting enough sleep, remembering to take medicine, remembering to take a bath, etc.).  To keep the two in balance (perfectionism and simple life functions) isn’t simply a matter of “living my best life” Oprah-style, it’s about the necessity of living PERIOD.

When you’re completely spent-- exhausted from project after project-- you of no use to anyone, including yourself.  Certainly, this is a lesson that I have had to learn (and relearn) the hard way.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Depression Post #1: My History

I’ve been struggling to write this post for the better part of two months.  I have always thought of this post-- ephemerally, anyway--as partly a way to contextualize my flakey blogging ethic and partly as a way to share my experiences-- both for my benefit and the benefit of others.  So let’s give it a go, shall we?

Let’s start with the basics: I, along with a sizeable portion of American adults, have depression and anxiety.

As any Wikipedia Sigmund Freud can tell you, the two disorders often go hand-in-hand, feeding off of one another in a vicious cycle of emotional misery: you’re depressed because of x, then you start to worry and twist yourself in knots over x, then you feel even more depressed because of your anxiety over x, which just makes you more anxious about x-- with these two buggers around, you can take an emotional nosedive quickfast.

Both disorders run in my family, so I have a strong genetic predisposition to them, though, through therapy, I have been able to trace both back to traumatic experiences that began early in my childhood.  Since my triggering events happened very early in my life, just as I was beginning to form an identity, there is no telling what my personality would have been like without the depression and anxiety.  In many ways, the disorders are as much a part of me as my freckles or fingerprints.

I treat my depression through a combination of medication and therapy; it took many, many, many years to find the right medication and dosage for me and a bit longer still to find a therapist who was the right fit for me as well.  In the past, I use to have bad months, bad years; with my current care plan in place I only have bad days or, at the very most, bad weeks.  While I am sure  that still sounds dire, it’s a tremendous improvement for which I am very grateful.

This talk of improvement, however, isn’t to say that I have magically be cured of my depression or that my anxiety has magically disappeared.  As I said before, my mental health concerns are a part of who I am-- though perhaps the freckles analogy is a bit too flip.  If I am completely honest, depression, in my experience, is a chronic illness that I have to carefully manage. I’ve no Pollyanna-ish hope that I will one day be cured; you can’t wait for some nebulous pipe dream to become a reality and make things better for you.

No, if you have depression, chronic depression-- tempered with a particularly crippling anxiety-- you have to be vigilant and strategic with your care plan: take your medicine regularly, go to your medical appointments, when you’re having a bad day use the strategies you have been taught to mitigate the low.  For me, these self-help strategies include taking a relaxing bath (with soothing salts or bubbles), using a face mask, watching a movie, cuddling my pug, or . . . just playing Angry Birds.

This year, however, I have hit a bit of a rough patch and it seemed that even my tried and true care plan was coming apart at the seams.  I was crippled.  I also know that it was my own fault for not being vigilant with my own care and for not paying any mind to my personal limitations.  I’ll talk about these in my next post, however; this entry is getting a bit long winded . . . so until tomorrow . . .


Sunday, April 7, 2013

What I've Been Watching Lately #1

In my last post, I mentioned my burgeoning love for The Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus.  As much as I love Netflix and its ability to connect a cinephile with their beloved obscure fare (i.e., me with any weird art house film from 1970s Czechoslovakia that catches my fancy), their on-demand selections leave much to be desired.  Unless your tastes are pedestrian, you aren’t going to find many rarities available for streaming on Netflix, you’ll have to put the film in your queue and wait a few days for it to arrive.  Now, that setup is well and good-- I still have a Netflix mail order subscription-- but sometimes you want to watch a movie about the Yakuza at nine pm on a Sunday.  It’s at times like these that my trusty Hulu Plus subscription comes in handy.

Here are some of the weird bibs and bobs I have been watching on Hulu during my downtime:

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce , 1080 Bruxelles

(1975, Belgium, dir Chantal Akerman)

[caption id="attachment_540" align="aligncenter" width="213"]Image: Criterion Collection Image: Criterion Collection[/caption]

The film follows the titular character through the highly regimented activities of her day-to-day live: cleaning the house, preparing meals for her son and . . . prostituting herself.  Jeanne’s strict routines slowly begin to unwind themselves, leading to a shocking and violent conclusion.

While hardly graphic, the film isn’t for the faint of heart-- it has virtually no dialogue, subverts traditional narrative structure, and is nearly over three hours long (four if you take potty breaks, like me).   If you don’t pride yourself on watching challenging cinema, you won’t stand a chance with this film.  Truth be told, this was my second time trying to watch the film; the first time, I checked out after five minutes, this time I stuck with it!

Rome, Open City

(1945, Italy, dir Roberto Rossellini)

[caption id="attachment_539" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Image: Criterion Collection Image: Criterion Collection[/caption]
I only watched this film two weeks ago and it has already risen among the ranks of my favorite movies.  Rome, Open City is the first film in Rossellini’s War Trilogy, a set of films that can be read as a visual manifesto for Italian Neorealist Cinema.  The film follows the efforts of a group of resistance fighters who bravely stand up to Fascist forces and pay the ultimate price for their ideals.  As with all Neorealist films, Rome, Open City is maudlin, but somehow the film isn’t less gripping for all of its melodrama.


(1977, Japan, dir Nobuhiko Obayashi)

[caption id="attachment_538" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Image: Criterion Collection Image: Criterion Collection[/caption]
This film was ridiculous.  Imagine, if you will, if the original Evil Dead and a Sailor Moon cartoon mated and they had a cat name Blanche-- that would be this movie.  It’s worse than you think.  AVOID!

Tokyo Drifter

(1966, Japan, dir Seijun Suzuki)

[caption id="attachment_537" align="aligncenter" width="202"]Image: Criterion Collection/ IMDB Image: Criterion Collection/ IMDB[/caption]
Honestly, I don’t know what has possessed me to watch two Japanese films in a row, but it’s been a trip, let me tell you.  Tokyo Drifter is a yakuza film about a former hoodlum who is trying to go straight before he’s pulled back into the criminal underworld in order to protect his former boss.  The poop hits the proverbial fan from there.  As campy as this film sounds, and it is campy, it’s a pretty good movie for what it is.  If you like your movie’s cheesey and with a catchy jazz soundtrack-- and who doesn’t!-- this little gem is worth a view.

As you can see, I have been watching an eclectic mix of films over the past few weeks.  If you have any Hulu-specific recommendations for me, let me know!