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Possible cause for depression fits... [May. 15th, 2007|11:01 pm]

I think part of what's been getting me down is that I'm going through a process of sorting out my illusions, my dreams, and my desires. Sometimes, I think it's when I realize I'm believing my own internal-hype that I hit depression, because I realize it's not true.

Tonight, I guess I kinda-sorta realized that, whatever I *am*, I'll only know when I cut away the things that I'm *not*... even if it hurts.

Some things are hurtful to cut at... somewhere between "no one could ever love me" and "most folks would love me if they *really* knew me" is a truer statement, but cutting away at the "most folks..." is painful.

I want to be loved. I want to think that most of the times I'm not, it's because of some stupid misunderstanding of what I am. Maybe that's true in some theoretical, "if we all met with our true destiny, which included filling our hearts with love..." sense, but not in the "real world" sense.

Other painful things... I'll never be the writer I once dreamed I might be; it was based in wishful thinking. (Anyone want to tell me I'm a decent writer? Keep in mind you don't know what "the writer I once dreamed I might be" is like.)

Other things are just weird to cut at. Whatever ideas I have, they've been had before, and I'm likely to, at best, present them in a new way that might help other folks pick up on them.

And I'm realizing the world would barely hiccup if I was hit by a meteor, and most of the hiccup would be because of the meteor, not my loss.

That's not to say that the world wouldn't miss me (nor that particular people wouldn't)... but that my place in the world isn't, won't be, and can't be, something big and deep.

I guess what's weird is, I've long known that a large part of being happy is not facing all of reality. The world can be a really shitty place, sometimes, and you have to be willing to not wallow in the shitty parts of it. You can't turn away from them, you can't ignore them, but you also can't let them crush you... because they will, if you let them.

And I know that sometimes you can't do something unless you dream about it, unless you dream *big*. Bill Gates wouldn't have built Microsoft if he hadn't thought he could create a tyrannical monopoly - er, unless he had big dreams and seized the possibility when it presented itself.

At the same time, there's a place for big dreams, and a place for acceptance of what *is* and what *will be*.


On the plus side, freshly made popcorn with plenty of butter goes nicely with a good Riesling and the latest episode of Heroes.

[User Picture]From: teddywolf
2007-05-16 12:53 pm (UTC)
The world is a big enough place to get by without a lot of people. If I cannot be important to the world at large, I at least hope to be important in my little slice of it. My bit of the pond may be a subset of an ocean, but it's still my pond. This is also true of your bit of pond, which overlaps mine.

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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2007-05-18 04:22 am (UTC)
Nod. But keep in mind that I frequently have dreams of Changing The World, and what a Great Loss it would be if I didn't do whatever it is I'm supposed to do. Well, it wouldn't be a Great Loss; that doesn't mean I have nothing I can do, but it does mean that a particular, pleasant dream is one I'm being slightly more wary of.
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[User Picture]From: ljgeoff
2007-05-16 01:15 pm (UTC)
On the plus side, freshly made popcorn with plenty of butter goes nicely with a good Riesling and the latest episode of Heroes.

That sounds lovely.

I've always been a big fan of the starfish story.

I wonder if perhaps you have been stuck in black and white thinking - Is serenejournal on your flist? She just posted a lovely list of things that make her happy. I find that kind of focus extremely beneficial.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2007-05-16 06:01 pm (UTC)
It's not a matter of being stuck, really... it's one thing to think "Okay, I'm not going to run a marathon any time soon, but I'm making good progress on my fitness goals, and that's a good thing. It used to be that my leg muscles and tendons were complaining more when I exercised them; now they've strengthened, and I have more overwork-aches than worry-about-injury aches. I can be, and am, happy about that."

It's another to think "I'm going to change the world because I have some brilliant ideas about what we're doing wrong".

It's a mix of setting myself up for disappointment (even if I was right about the ideas being brilliant, it would take huge gobs of luck to succeed), and having desires that interfere with happiness. If I managed to change the world, it'd happen because I was doing something else, not because I was "trying to change the world".
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[User Picture]From: erin_c_1978
2007-05-16 02:02 pm (UTC)
That sounds like hard but necessary work. I wish you luck with it.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2007-05-16 06:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks... I'm hoping to find a way that doesn't lead to the day and week-long depression fits, though :-).
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From: kightp
2007-05-16 03:31 pm (UTC)
You're about the age I was when I realized that, among other things, I would never write the Great American Novel, or any sort of novel at all (which came about five years after realizing that I wasn't destined to be a hot-shot, big-name newspaper columnist). It wasn't that I didn't have the "talent," it was that I didn't have the temperament - or the opportunity. The dice hadn't rolled my way, and no amount of rethrowing was going to change that.

It took some time and effort to move from bitter disappointment at what looked like the dashing of all my dreams to accepting that modest dreams are worth having too. And I think that point - the place where I realized my life's mission, if you want to call it that, was to work on being the best me I could possibly be - was the first time in my life when I began to actually feel happy.

So for what it's worth, I get it. And you know where to find me if you want to talk about it.
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[User Picture]From: wyang
2007-05-16 06:20 pm (UTC)

The unending quest to find one's self.

First off, John, I know we haven't stayed as close as we once were. But that doesn't change the fact that I still see you as a great person and a true friend.

Just because you're not writing the Great American Novel doesn't make you a non-writer. I read Angel War (through several iterations) and I enjoyed it. Just because it's not published doesn't mean you need to stop -- it just means you need to look at what you do, and search for how you can use your strengths to best advantage.

Accentuating your strengths -- your compassion, your creativity, your caring, and your intellect to name just a few of the characteristics that make you who you are -- can set up a pattern of success.

Is writing your best or only talent? I doubt it. But we live in an age where it's harder to become well-known for writing than it ever has been before. I still value what you have to say, and I recognize your insights as something that adds value to my life.

Thinking about Heroes for a second... I've watched and enjoyed the show closely. I particularly like Hiro (as you might be able to tell from my icon ;-)... who I believe the show really centers on.

* Last chance!

See, this season of Heroes has been about Hiro's journey, seeking to become the hero he's dreamed himself to be. It's a story of self-realization and self-actualization. Early on, his powers developed... raw, difficult to control, but powerful in a primative sense. Then, he loses his powers and has to go on a quest for a focus to bring them back. Finally, in the episode just this week, he takes on the discipline and the responsibility that his powers mean... he accepts he must do dark deeds to use his abilities to the betterment of the world.

Why do I talk about Hiro's quest in the context of this thread? BOne of the things that makes Heroes so appealing to viewers (outside the more sophisticated writing and characters), I think, is the fact that the Hiro's quest is a metaphor for how we seek to find our path in life. In a sense, Hiro's quest and yours, John--in fact, probably all of ours--is about that quest for self-discovery and self-realization that I believe really defines the human condition.

Unfortunately, I don't think we can give you a symbolic sword as a focus of your abilities. But please don't give up any hope of ever finding it. We don't have to define ourselves by our successes or even our failures. Instead, let's define ourselves by the choices we make, and the spirit with which we carry on.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2007-05-18 05:52 pm (UTC)

Re: The unending quest to find one's self.

Nod. I do think that this is a kind of anti-heroic quest, actually.

One of the revelations I had was that I yearn to be a hero, the person who comes in at a crucial time, and puts things right. And you know, there's a place for that, but it's a place on the outside.

More heroic than the brilliant surgeon who saves a child's life are the parents, who raise the child, and go through all the trials and tribulations of childrearing... even if the brilliant surgeon had to drive a hundred and six miles to a Chicago operating room with a full tank of gas, half a pack of... oh, hell, you know the drill. :-)

You know what just flashed through my mind? An episode of Barney Miller, where they were holding someone who was claiming to promote other people's inventions, including "Tan Alert" (a timer that warned people to turn over and tan the other side of their body). It ends with Barney shouting how *no one* is going to buy a stupid product like Tan Alert, and the conman knows it... while the inventor of Tan Alert is, of course, right in the room.

And the conman says something like "I might be in the business of exploiting people's hopes in order to make a quick buck. But at least I'm not in the business of destroying people's dreams".

And of course, the inventor was depressed and embarrassed at realizing that sure, his idea was a flop. But now he can find another dream, one where he really could make his dream come true, without someone artificially inflating his dreams in order to scam him. His dream wasn't destroyed... it was broken down, so it could be built anew.

(There's got to be some market for people able to draw important life lessons from analysis of old TV shows that are just barely remembered. No, wait, that's another Tan Alert, isn't it? :-) )
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[User Picture]From: dandelion_diva
2007-05-16 08:39 pm (UTC)
Ohhh...you were hoping to be important to the world.

Would it help if I told you I believed that only a handful of people were truly important to the world and the majority of them had to die for that to happen?

You are loved. And you are important to lots of people. I don't know if that's enough...but it's true.


Love you.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2007-05-18 06:10 pm (UTC)
Chuckle. Actually, the dying bit is the easy part. Everyone knows how to die; so far, everyone who's tried to fail at dying has, eventually, succeeded, sometimes despite their best efforts.

(That's a variation of the whole idea of "Dying for your beliefs is easy, living by them is hard".)

It's just... heh. I read stuff about the Buddha, and I think "Ayup, smart feller, that Budda guy." I read my books on meditation and "yeah, yeah, blah blah, universal love the only true way, etc., etc., come *on* tell me something I don't already know!"

Like, how to translate that intellectual knowledge into heart and gut-felt truths.

And I hit that frustration; if it's so obvious-to-me, is there some way to make it obvious-to-everyone? And the answer is "no"... I gotta remember that the answer is "no", because otherwise it's too easy to lose sight of the whole idea of universal love in the interest of trying to explain it, of trying to "win" by forcing someone to see it and understand it.

But I still have this idea that someday I'll start writing the perfect words and people will suddenly all say "OH!" and I'll have accomplished Great Things.

It's not a bad dream to get rid of... in the end, I'm more likely to convince someone when not trying. I know that, and I've known it for a long time. But it still seems like something precious to lose, you know?
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[User Picture]From: firecat
2007-05-16 11:20 pm (UTC)

Pocket change

For me "I want to be loved by everybody" is based in fear that if I'm not loved by everybody, a tiger will eat me or I will die abandoned in a nursing home. What is it based in for you?

Also, why do you want to know who/what you are? Seriously. You talk about "not facing all of reality." Cutting away illusions has been important for me too but sometimes it only makes me unhappy and then I start to wonder why it's important to me.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2007-05-18 07:25 pm (UTC)

Re: Pocket change

Well... about being loved by everyone, I think it's just the ancient charm against being the unpopular one, the outcast. "Well, if you *really* knew me, you'd love me, and you're missing out on something wonderful if you reject me, so there!"

I do have the fears of universal abandonment, but they're generally mild these days.

Finding who I really am, well... have you read the Myth books? There's a scene where Aahz is instructing Skeeve about using magical energy wisely, using a metaphor of dropping ten pound boulders on the heads of people trying to cross a narrow mountain pass. And Skeeve says he's not dropping ten pound boulders, he's digging through gravel, hoping for a decent sized rock. And Aahz says that even gravel can be useful, if you use it right.

I'm trying to figure out what I've really got, be it rocks or gravel or sand.

It's not that I'm trying to wallow in worthlessness ("Face it, you'll never be a great writer, so you just totally suck", or somesuch), but I'm trying to find happiness in what I am ("You know, I don't *need* to be a great writer to be happy...").
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[User Picture]From: firecat
2007-05-18 07:30 pm (UTC)

Re: Pocket change

I definitely don't think you were trying to wallow. I'm asking these questions because I'm struggling with a lot of the same things.

So "finding who you are" is something equivalent to "finding what kinds of talents/motivations/energy I have, so I can use what I have to accomplish something, even if it's not what I thought it might be when I was younger"?
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2007-05-22 06:06 pm (UTC)

Re: Pocket change

I definitely don't think you were trying to wallow. I'm asking these questions because I'm struggling with a lot of the same things.

Understood. I said that to differentiate between what I saw as two states that seemed like they could be confusing, and partly to think it out in my own head. I'm starting to understand that there needs to be a difference between (fictional example - my legs are fine) "I've lost my legs; nothing is going to grow them back. Life will always suck because of this" and "I've lost my legs; nothing is going to grow them back. I can't change that, I accept it as an unpleasant reality. What does that mean for my life?"

And finding out who I am, yes, part of it is being able to accomplish something. Part of it... well, part of it is just to find what it is that I need to be happy, even if I don't "accomplish" anything. To be at peace if I don't manage to do anything that other people generally consider noteworthy. To learn to cast my happiness spell.
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From: kightp
2007-05-23 07:47 pm (UTC)

Re: Pocket change

A therapist once gave me an assignment that was at once the most difficult and most *useful* thing she ever asked me to do. When I was flailing around in "I don't know who I am or what I'm doing with my life," she asked me to sit down and start writing short, simple, one-subject "I am ..." statements. And to keep at it - not necessarily in one sitting, but a little every day - until I couldn't think of any more.

They didn't all have to be positive statements, either, as long as they were true, and in the present tense (So: No "I am working toward ..." or "I am trying to ..." statements, but as many "I am a daughter," "I am a learner" "I am ticklish" type statements as I could come up with.) And she asked me to try write them without getting sidetracked either justifying or apologizing for them.

It was an immensely useful exercise; I think it was the first time I'd ever taken time to think about myself in such concrete, here-and-now terms. Until then, my self-image was all wrapped up in past traumas or future dreams. Seeing myself in the here-and-now was an entirely new experience, and one I found both eye-opening and encouraging.

I think that was when I began learning the ingredients of my own happiness spell.
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