Tag Archives: Depression

Bad Planning on Someone’s Part

It’s been a month.

Unfortunately it has not been a month filled with writing and merriment.

For the most part the month has been filled with all sorts of activities that have nothing to do with writing but are surprisingly good at distracting me from the fact that I’m not. Who would have thought, just as things are going right I would go so wrong?

Fear of success?

Or just a bad month?

I’m not sure. But I am very sure that I don’t want to look to hard at the underpinnings of my behavior the last few weeks. Not sure I like that person much. She’s weak. As a friend of mine said last night “I’m just making excuses”.

It’s been four weeks since the first drop hit the bucket, three since the second, and a two since the third. My world tumbled… into a heap of emotional and financial ruin. I could see it and it terrified me.

Here is the funny thing.

At the same time I was falling my writing was getting noticed. Four weeks ago I signed a contract with an online publisher, three weeks ago I met an editor who wants me to write non-fiction for him, and two weeks ago I submitted a story to someone who was interested in getting it.

So yes, my friend is right, I am just making excuses. I’ve been lying in a maudlin heap for too many days while life is going on all around me. Good life that is full of possibilities that are just sitting there waiting for me to grab.

So time to get up and start chasing them, don’t you think?

~ Tess

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The Unexpected

I guess I should have expected this… but I have learned to submit my stories without linking an expectation to them.

I signed a contract yesterday!

I sold a story and I signed a contract. The glow of this hard won success still sits inside me making me dance around the house and do silly things. It won’t last. Happy moments like this never do. Thank goodness – because the adrenalin surge that occurred wore me out.

But it made me think about happiness and the decisions that we make.

My guru on happiness isn’t the tenants of religion or the rules of a self-help writer. Rather I turn to science and the work of Daniel Gilbert to help me understand what makes us happy.

Right now I am happy – not surging with bliss by any means – but happier now than last year or the years before that. In reality the last time I felt this content was when I worked at Borders and before that my job at the Vollum taking care of Fruit Fly stocks. At the time I didn’t know how lucky I was. Each time I left chasing money and benefits thinking they would have a positive impact on my life. Each time I got the money and the benefits but they didn’t make me happier.

According to Dr. Gilbert, what we think will make us happy is wrapped up in the desires of our genes to procreate and the need of our society. More money, more things, better jobs, etc. are all part of the push that society gives us in order for it to exist. Thus the lure of the “American Dream”.

Apparently us humans are not able to clearly define what future choices will make us happy. We can play with future events, imagine ourselves in future situations, but are usually really bad at deciding what will make us happy. People tend to overestimate outcomes both negatively and positively.

I have a friend who made a huge life change last year because she imagined it would make her happier. The reality of the situation is very different and at times she is despondent. There were all these things that the new job was supposed to do and I believe not a single one has materialized. It also appears that the stress has eliminated the ability for her to manufacture happiness by making what she has, what she wanted.

I explained that poorly.

One of the things that we do to create happiness is reframe the situation. (This again from Dr. Gilbert) We’ve all done this. Look at the relationships that have imploded in your life, jobs lost, or promotions denied. We mourn then and then we reframe the story. We say things like “we really weren’t a good fit” or “I’m better off now than if I’d gotten that job” or the classic “it wasn’t meant to be”.

An aspect of depression is not being able to reframe. People get locked into the mourning phase and are unable to move on. There is an advantage to depression. It keeps us from acting on our emotions of the moment and gives us time to adjust to the new situation. It is only when it continues beyond its useful period that it becomes a problem.

But I digress.

The reason I was thinking about happiness is that I got lucky. And I’m not sure how or why. Maybe it was just blind luck that I figured out what I wanted to do with my life and that I’m actually enjoying it.

Not all of it – this isn’t easy.

A friend asked me the other day if I got up excited every morning. I don’t. I still love my bed and hate getting up. But I do and I write almost every day – we all need days off – and I just did the numbers and found that I write more than 5 days a week. This is my job after all.

But I was thinking about my friend and her inability to forgive herself for her decision and start reframing the situation so she can be happy again. It is a different life but it isn’t a bad one and she’s had some tremendous successes. She just can’t seem them.

In the end, we make our own happiness. No matter how bad things get we bounce back and move forward. Nothing in our lives will bring us as much pain or as much joy as we think it will.

And even that is transitory.   

~ Tess

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Pavlov’s Bell

Some times it is the littlest thing.

Technology is wonderful – it keeps us connected. And I loved being connected to my ex. I adored the random check-in’s, the texted love notes, the rambling conversation we would have when we were apart – the sound of an incoming text made my hour.

All that is gone now, but text messages keep coming in.

Not from him – from family and friends. But each time I find my heart in my throat hoping, remembering the joy, and then crashing back to Earth with a thud when I realized it wasn’t him.

It was cruel. 

A constant reminder of what I had lost.

It’s been over a month since he left, and yet I found myself still reacting to the sound of an incoming text message. Once I realized what was happening I told myself I just needed to change to tones. Select something else. It was as simple as that – change the stimulus and the reaction would go away.

I must have been holding on to something.

I couldn’t do it. I kept putting it off and then feeling the pain when a new text message would come in. Relief came in an unexpected form.

Last week I got a new phone. Nothing fancy, I’m poor at the moment so I went for “free is a very good price”. It is still a Samsung – but all of the tones and sounds are completely unlike anything I had before. Finally I can get a text and not think of him. It is a relief. I had no idea how I was holding on to him by holding on to that sound.

I’m not sure how many of you had Psychology in school (or remember it) but Pavlov was the researcher who discovered that you could link an autonomic response – something that you don’t consciously control – like salivating to a simple stimulus – like a bell. Pavlov trained a dog to salivate when the bell rang buy first associating the bell with food and then simply ringing the bell.

My experience with my phone made me wonder how many other things in my life am I associating with a stimulus that has nothing to do with the thing itself? The sound of a text message coming in made me joyful and then depressed. What else is there? And is there value in finding out what they are so that we can change them?

I spent the weekend wondering and looking for stimulus that prompted responses from me that are related to something else. The only thing I could come up with is my alarm. My alarm used to get me up to go to work – to the job that was killing me. I’m thinking of changing the gong like tone in for the radio. It’s been over a decade since I woke to Morning Edition.

I wonder how many more of these are hiding in my home and my behavors? Can you think of any in your life?

~ Tess Anderson

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