I try to remember, really I do, that this depression isn’t curable. ganesh-6

But it’s so hard sometimes, to put it in my head and keep it there. To remember, when I’m trying to live my life and be happy, that there is this big black monster lurking behind me, waiting for it’s chance to come back and haunt me again. And when it does, when it comes back and sets up shop in my brain and mind, it feels like a betrayal.

I keep thinking that I should be better than this.

Such a trap, that phrase, thought and feeling. That I should be better. Should? I should? Who gets to decide what I should and should not do? Is that something that comes from me, from within myself, or is it an idea from society and culture, something learned and accepted as though it were true?

For that matter, what measure am I using to judge ‘better’ by? What possible metric is there to decide what is better and what is worse?

It feels as though I am failure.

Failing and full of fail and just pure unmitigated failure. Which, in reality land, isn’t even possible, really, but in this darkness, it feels real and true. Inevitable. Inescapable. That failure is my destiny and doom, I can’t get away from it, will never ever be anything at all, that everything I try, and everything I touch, and everything I seek out will turn to dust and ruin around me.

If that’s not an example of negative thinking and self talk, I don’t know what is.

That’s the sort of poison that depression whispers into my head. That’s it, right there. Evil and lingering and fucking oozing all over my life. If you aren’t depressed, haven’t fought against it, then you don’t know how much it pisses me off. I hate it, hate feeling like this, hate knowing that this is a fight I will have again and again, for the rest of my life, and that there’s nothing in the end that I can do about it.

It is truly insidious, depression.

There are only two things I can do about depression. I can either fight it with every breath, every bit of strength in my body, or I can give in. And as seductive as it may be to give in, to give up, to let it win, I refuse. That is death, true death. The death of my soul and heart and everything that makes me human. I will not go gentle, I will rage against the dying of my light.

Was that too much? I think that was too much…

Cheesy poetry is sometimes the last resort, the last defense I have. And I’ll take refuge in any defense at this point. Bad art, cheap poems and weak wine. So this is me, still fighting.

It’s all I can do, to fight. So I will. Even though it’s hard, even though I’m tired, even though it feels so fucking useless. No giving up.

I may still be human, but I just can’t accept having harbored such petty crap inside myself. I forget, sometimes, that I need to forgive myself my past failures and move on. And yet, it’s so tempting to wallow in failure and castigate myself as a fraud and a failure.

And I know that I shouldn’t, just as I know that I shouldn’t use the word ‘should’. Or any version of ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’… Is it a human condition, to constantly hold ourselves to unmeet-able standards? Or is it purely an artifact of depression, some left over bit of coding in my firmware that means I’ll constantly look for ways to break myself?

I’m thinking this partly because I’ve been sick, and so I fell off my own bandwagon of good work habits. I was doing so well, too. Sickness, however, is a very valid reason to cut myself some slack.

There you have it. I’m feeling physically ill, and then the mental/emotional part of me gets in on the act too, and I start cycling down the damn drain. This never gets easier, I tell you what. I wish it did. For me as well as for everyone who has to suffer through the brain gremlins of depression.

So I have some techniques for battling off the gremlins, and I thought maybe I’d share them, as they can be very useful.

  • You start out by being as aware as possible that in many ways, you are not working normally right now. Your brain is compromised. Don’t trust it, don’t trust that wee voice in the back of your head, and assume that objective reality is vastly different from subjective reality.
  • Next up, imagine that every negative self defeating thought you have is wrong. Prima facie wrong. Incorrect and the utter opposite of the truth. Try to believe that.
  • I love lists. So a big part of my process involves lists. Make a list of three concrete things you can get done today. Check them off when they’re done. Make them super simple, like ‘wake up,’ ‘put on a shirt’, or ‘sweep the floor’. You totally get bonus points for each item further you get done. Write those down too, and then cross them off! It’s fun, trying to see how many crossed off items you can get. Make it a game, and give yourself a prize at the end.
  • Give yourself prizes! You need to have something great as a motivational prize at the end. What motivates you? A bubble bath? Pizza? Time with pen and paper to make crazy art? Make the thing you get happy about into your prize. And here’s the cool part: you get your prize even if you don’t cross anything off. Because you’re just awesome and wonderful, and you deserve great things.

Stop assuming failure means you get to beat yourself up. This goes for me, too. Failure doesn’t mean you get punished, it means you have to try again later. But you get points for even fucking trying, damn it. You get a prize for showing up, for getting out of bed (even if you got right back into it.), you get a damn pony for being you.

Stop punishing yourself for every little thing. It’s counter productive to keep on beating yourself up. Just like dog training, horse training and raising kids, if you beat them all the time, they don’t learn anything, they never improve, and they never find joy. What makes you any different from a dog, horse or kid? Whatever you just thought of, that thought? is wrong.

I’m sick as shit, coughing up bits of lung, and trying to remind myself of all of the above. Here’s my three item list from today:

  1. sweep the floor
  2. feed and water the animals
  3. do something somewhat work related

All done. And in fact, over done. I swept the floor, picked up laundry and put it in the basket, rearranged stuff, threw things away, put stuff away and generally tidied up. I fed my pets and my roomie’s pets. I redid the audio page on my work blog, set up a spreadsheet to track audios, bios and bio audios, as well as group blog audios, tried to link livewriter to my work blog (I need a different set of permissions for that) and answered emails.

Booya! Not bad for sicky sick girl!

My prize? I got to play WoW for three hours. And I reveled in it, let me be the one to tell you.

Set yourself small goals, do your best to meet them, and reward yourself like you were a member of royalty. It works. Trust me. Listing it out like this? Has made me feel so much better.

I find it interesting, sometimes, to read journals of people I used to know. Old lovers, former confederates, heroes and heroines past…

I think it lets me see a bit of an alternate universe. Everyone carries the universe around in their head; the Buddhists call it ‘maya’, the illusion of the world that we take for reality.

So I find it fascinating to be able to see how other people view the same events, even years after the fact.

Attached to this is the fact that, as usual, I really dig on watching my own internal processes. Watching myself become upset or pissed off because someone I used to care about has a different interpretation of events than I do is oddly pleasing to me. I see that in some way, I do still care about their opinion and viewpoint, because anger comes from fear, which comes from love.

Of course, I also know that hurtful words and painful actions come from fear, which comes from love, so in a twisted way, I know they also still carry some feelings for me, and the others involved in the situation.

I think that I’ll choose to take the energy from these feelings and channel it into something productive. Something that would both please and upset that other person. Because, like I said, anger and fear come from love, but so does a petty desire to show someone up.

Still human, therefore still capable of being petty. 😛

1. Choices

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.

trans. Thomas Byrom

I learned to cook watching my grandmother and mother in the kitchen. I learned from seeing how they did what they did, and from tasting the end products of their genius. In middle and high schools, I learned by tasting alongside them, as they cooked.

“Here, taste this, tell me what you think.”

“It tastes good, Nana!”

“Hm, I think it needs more sage.” And she’d add a pinch, or a dash, and stir it in: “Taste again.”

“Wow! You were right!”

My grandmother could tell what a sauce or roast or any dish needed by smelling it as she walked past. She could lift the lid on any simmering pot, and tell you what to add to make it just a little bit better. And she knew when to stop meddling, when perfection had been attained. She could deconstruct dishes in restaurants from the taste, and tell you what went into them (and what they could have done differently to make it better.)

Every meal she cooked, she would sit and tell us all the things she’d done wrong. “But, Nana, it tastes amazing!” She’d smile, and shake her head, and tell us it could have been better. She cooked in pursuit of the perfect dish, and while in her eyes she never quite got there, in mine, she achieved it in every dish.

My grandmother was born in 1914, and reached adulthood in WW1. She would tell us stories of the Depression, about food rationing, and having a garden. About her dad going hunting so they could have some meat. About going fishing herself, so the family could have some variety. All her life, no matter where she lived, she had a garden. She ingrained the need for a garden so deep, my mom has one in Arizona, and the one we’ve got planned for here would have made her smile and nod her head in deep contentment.

I remember coming home from school to a hot house. My grandmother and mother would have been cooking so long, and so much all day, that the air conditioning unit couldn’t keep up. There would be week long marathons of canning, trying to get the garden put away for the winter. Quarts and pints and Mason jars upon Mason jars, all full of my grandmother’s passed down recipes. There were dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, Christmas rings, strawberry and peach jelly, and peach preserves, too. There were jars upon jars, millions it seemed, of spaghetti sauce, stewed tomatoes, and home made tomato paste. They’d make hot sauce, and bbq sauce, and pear mince meat for pies in the cold months.

We lived further north then, and the climate still hadn’t changed as much, so the winters would be full of sleet and hail, cold miserable months where the garden sat in the backyard, covered over in mulch, waiting. I remember my grandmother would start to consult her Old Farmer’s Almanac, for when to plant, when to start to till the soil over. There’d be a conversation over dinner in the spring, and the next weekend, my dad would get out the tiller, and till the mulch into the soil. I’d be out there ‘helping’, pointing out where he’d missed a spot (not that he’d miss anything. I loved the smell of it, the way the dirt smelled like spring, and just had to be right there to experience it.)

Today, I made bbq sauce. I’d never made my own bbq sauce before, but I remembered Nana doing it. From old memories of her hands moving deftly over a steaming pot, I made up a recipe. Diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sauted onion and garlic. Mustard and Worchestershire sauce, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cayenne powder and a dash of powdered ginger too. Sweet and tangy, rich and full, it tastes nothing at all like what my grandmother used to make, and yet it is the same as what she would make. Hers was tangier, more vinegary (she’d spent time up North, with the Yankees, and so could be excused the temptation to add vinegar to bbq sauce.) But they were made the same way, none the less. A dash of this, a drab of that, and taste. What flavor is missing? Add more, taste again.

I learned the arcane chemistry of cooking from my grandmother, and from my mother. When I cook, it is always with her in mind; my grandmother is the metric by which I measure success in the kitchen. And when I succeed, I smile, because I know she would smile, and nod, and tell me “Not bad, but it could have used some…” She always sought perfection. So do I.

(I think next time I make bbq sauce, I may add just a little bit of apple cider vinegar; it was a bit too sweetish, and could have used a bit more tang…)

In reading various blogs, I ran across a concept that seemed so wonderfully idiosyncratic and odd that I just had to click the link and look.It was the idea of idiot compassion.

In a nutshell, idiot compassion is a Buddhist concept out of one of the Tibetan lineages. When someone slights you, and you look at your reaction to understand it, without looking at the slight, or the person who slighted you… When instead of giving someone what they need, you simply give them what they want… When you excuse their behavior, smile at rudeness and crudity, and refuse to hold others accountable for their actions…

Idiot compassion.

Sometimes, true compassion for the human animal involves calling your friends on their shit. Refusing to let things slide, standing up for what is right, even when it is uncomfortable, and demanding that respect is a two way street can be compassionate actions.

There is an idea in Feri traditions that one should not coddle weakness. Rudeness, lack of respect, refusal to accept responsibility for one’s life… these things are weaknesses.

The other side of the saying from Feri is that one should not punish weakness, either. Letting go of the need to punish is the same as forgiving. It is compassionate to forgive.

There is a fine line to walk here, between standing strong for what is right, and striking out against what is wrong. Learning to walk this line is one of the tasks of the human animal on it’s way to becoming the human being, Man.

Sometimes I find this line excruciating to walk; and yet I must walk it, or cease to be myself…

Today is housework day, but I still managed to put together one of the pages here at the blog. I rock at multitasking!

Check out the Depression page, won’t you, and leave me a comment letting me know what you think. Thanks!

I fought with the idea of ‘forgiveness’ for the longest time. I didn’t get it, didn’t think I could, and didn’t want to grok it, either. I understood it from the viewpoint of my fundamentalist relatives, in that ‘holier than thou’ sort of a way, and it was repugnant to me.

One day, I was thinking about it, trying to get my brain wrapped around it after having read about Quan Yin. She is the Iron Goddess of Mercy, and she’s also the Goddess of Forgiveness. I knew her as the Iron Goddess, but Forgiveness? This blew my mind, and made me rethink my concepts around the word.

I usually start by thinking of what a word does not mean. I can eliminate a lot of the societal and cultural expectations surrounding a word’s usage that way. Forgiveness does not mean acceptance, it does not mean condoning, it does not mean trust… I shaved away layers of meaning and undertone and overt shading, until I found the meaning underneath what ‘society’ has given that word.

It means, for me, letting go of the need to punish. This brings it closer to the Buddhist idea of compassion, for me.

Your action merely is, the way it affects me is the way it affects me, and I have no judgment or need to punish or praise you for it. (you being a generic term, not a personal one.) This does leave aside the social grease needed to live in this world that manners provides; when someone does something nice, it’s ‘good’ to say thank you and praise them, and negative feedback can prevent a repeat of ‘bad’ behavior, etc…

I don’t forgive easily, or often. I think I use the word more easily now than I used to, and I use it to denote those times when I’ve realized I’m carrying a need to punish, destroy, or ‘teach a lesson to’ someone or something. In those cases, where the need to punish is harming me, I use forgiveness to put down the need to punish, the desire (to go back to to a core Buddhist concept) to harm.

Another really important idea in the center of my world is ‘personal responsibility’. I am responsible for my own experience, and if I’m not happy, I should do something different. No one is obligated or responsible for me, for my life, for providing me with the things I need. It’s up to me to see that my needs are met, which means also that it’s up to me to know what my needs are, communicate about those needs, and to be proactive in meeting my needs.

A long held central belief for me is ‘honesty.’ First with myself, then with others. If I’m asked a direct question, I’ll answer it truthfully. I may point out to the person asking the question that they may not like the answer, or that I think the the truthful answer will hurt them, and then ask them if they really want to know, but if they say they do, then they get the truth. This is the compromise I reached with myself between the social ‘white lie’, and being totally honest all the time. And like you said about manners, I do have a choice in what words I use to convey my truths…

I also live my life by the ideal of continuing personal evolution. I change, deliberately and purposefully. I constantly look at my life, my actions, thoughts, words and deeds, and evaluate these things based on my own ideas of who I want to be. I don’t use society’s standards, or any outside person’s idea of who I should be. I don’t evaluate in terms of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but instead in terms of ‘works to achieve my goals’ and ‘doesn’t work’. I ask myself “who am I, who do I want to be, how do I get there, what needs to change, what is working right now?” And I keep this as judgment free as possible…

Your attention is important to us.

This blog under construction, but soon it will be revealed in all it’s fulsome glory, a shining beacon into the wilderness of the internet, a home and haven to all weary wanderers in the wild, an oasis and sanctuary…

Well, it’ll be pretty cool, anyway, and I hope useful and interesting and informative, too.

Just, give me a moment to create some content!