depression

All posts tagged depression

Why Am I Doing This? A Dangerous Question During Exam Time for Graduate Students

Published August 17, 2014 by harleyquinnly

9a9ec-existentialcrisis

I am a Ph.D. student in History. I am having an existential crisis. This can apply to people in any type of situation when it gets tough and makes you ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Sometimes you don’t have an answer. 

To earn a Ph.D. in history at my university, you must take so many semesters/credit hours of coursework, earning a grade no lower than a B. That is not enough to prove your worth, however. You must take three, six hour long exams over three days, known as comprehensive exams (comps). The three exams are your general field (US history), secondary field (American West), and a minor field (Public History). 

Why are these so daunting? For me personally, I am not good at tests. Sure, I know the information inside and out but when I am handed an exam I can’t even remember what name to put at the top of the page. I will do reviews, projects, or write you a frickin’ book but don’t give me a test. In addition, I am aware that the exam can ask anything that happened in the United States from 1492 until the 1980s. That’s roughly five hundred years of stuff. And you must know what every historian has written about each era as well. 

scream

Yes, I’m aware it’s a form of academic hazing. It’s weeding out the lesser, supposed to be humbling, etc. As if taking (and acing) history courses for about ten years isn’t good enough. And humbling? What about surviving the professors that routinely made your colleagues cry and whose classes required multiple all-nighters (not from procrastination either). 

What I’m getting at, besides being whiney, is today after I found out I must also submit a dissertation proposal during the exact same time as I’m supposed to be studying (and getting signatures from my committee is like herding cats). I made the mistake of asking myself, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I even getting my Ph.D.?”

exist crisis

Most people go to graduate school to get degrees required for higher jobs. I went for my Ph.D. because I had just gone through a divorce, wanted to avoid a personal life, and only knew of adulthood through the lens of a college student. I genuinely love the classroom and reading, any academic pursuit really. If I had unlimited scholarships I would be happy doing nothing but being a perpetual student. 

But then there’s real life. The place where I had to quit my dream job I went to graduate school for in the first place because it didn’t pay enough for me to survive on. The place where I work a horrid 40+ hours a week job with a verbally abusive boss before going home to stress over these exams. I’m proud to say that through hard work, scholarships, help, and luck I have no student loans, but I’ve paid dearly for that in other ways. Because I work, I am unable to dedicate myself to publishing (which is the only means to employment, if you can even find it). So why am I doing this?

i-dont-know-who-i-am-any-more

In addition, where I live, having higher education makes you more unemployable than a felon. I often lie and leave off my higher education on resumes or I don’t receive interviews or are flat out told I am over-educated, over-qualified, etc. Smart people need to eat too. (I’m serious about the felon part-I know of a registered sex offender that has a job that pays three times as much as mine)

tumblr_m2uy2sPqIr1qff4v2o1_500

I wish I could end this post with an enlightened, ‘This is what I reminded myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing’ but I’m not there yet. I don’t have an answer. Maybe I’m doing this because I’ve already worked for three years to get this far into the Ph.D. Maybe because school was the only thing I felt I was ever good at and base my sense of worth upon it. 

Perhaps this is why you seldom see sober Ph.D. students when they’re studying for comps.

exist 3

Advertisements

Mental Illness and Greatness

Published June 12, 2013 by harleyquinnly

lincoln

Lately as I’ve been struggling more with ADHD, depression, OCD tendencies, and corresponding medication, etc. I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of people have mental illness. Contrary to societal stereotypes, we are not all people rocking in the corner muttering to ourselves and unemployable. Some have struggles that interfere with their lives more than others.

I had some sort of an epiphany this week. I had always felt quietly bad about myself about starting medication when I reached the point that I had difficulties functioning without it. Then last week, out of the blue (as is always the case with my revelations), I realized that some of my most favorite and most educated, intelligent, hardworking people I know have some form of mental illness. I read an article that argued those with ADHD usually have a slightly higher IQ than the average population. I am curious as to why that is. Sure, I used aspects of my ADHD and anxiety to finish a master’s degree in eight months but I always thought it was an obstacle-that everything in my life is harder for me than everybody else because of the mental illness I live with. But after these realizations I started thinking, what if these “issues” are part of what makes me successful? Where would I be if I didn’t have ADHD that forces/enables me to seriously multitask? What about the anxiety that keeps me from procrastinating? The fact that I have to be super organized to function? Even though I still have days that I am frustrated when I can’t focus or have to take medication, maybe this is part of what makes me “me.”

I saw this article on another blog and it furthers my revelation. A study believes that 49 percent of former US presidents had a mental illness. I wonder if with greatness comes mental illness, or, the one I prefer, that despite issues one can still reach great heights. The study is listed below.

Hoffman, Haley. “Study Posits Presidents Had Mental Illness.” The Chronicle. February 21, 2006. http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2006/02/22/study-posits-presidents-had-mental-illness (accessed June 12, 2013).

“No one would ever expect the general who led the Union army to victory in the Civil War to have a debilitating fear of blood. But Ulysses S. Grant was among the 49 percent of former U.S. presidents afflicted by mental illness, according to an article published recently by psychiatrists at the Duke University Medical Center.

Jonathan Davidson, professor of psychiatry and director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program, has a particular interest in history, especially U.S. presidents. After culling data from presidential biographies, Davidson was joined by Kathryn Connor, associate professor of psychiatry, and Marvin Swartz, professor and head of the social and community division of psychiatry, to analyze the information. Together, they diagnosed the commander-in-chiefs from 1776 to 1974.

According to the study, published in January in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, of the 37 presidents researched, 18 were found to suffer a mental illness of some form. Depression was the most prevalent disorder among presidents, occurring at a rate of 24 percent. The researchers wrote that the 49-percent rate mirrored national mental illness statistics, but the rate of depression was high for a male population.

“A fairly high number of people have mental disease at some level, so it would be surprising if presidents didn’t,” said John Aldrich, professor of political science. “Certain things, like depression, are associated with artistic accomplishment.”

Other diagnoses included anxiety, alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder and social phobia. Howard Taft apparently suffered from sleep apnea.

At least 10 presidents were affected by episodes while in office, and the study found evidence that symptoms interfered with their performance in almost all cases.

To make their diagnoses, the researchers used the criteria of the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual all psychiatrists use to treat patients. They examined the data to identify symptoms, determine if they were persistent and caused dysfunction and then establish their own levels of confidence that mental illness existed.

Such remote diagnosis through secondary research, however, can be problematic. “Using biographical materials may be an imperfect way to gauge mental illness,” Aldrich said. Swartz explained that detailed analysis of primary sources, while ideal, was outside of the scope of the study but that the published article elaborated on its own relevance and weaknesses. “You have to rely on what historians reported based on their research,” he said. Still, Swartz estimated that their sources erred on the side of undercounting illness among presidents.

The troubles of certain presidents are already very well known. Abraham Lincoln famously suffered from symptoms of depression, though he triumphed politically more than Franklin Pierce, whose more modest legacy the study attributed greatly to his illness.

Having witnessed the violent death of his son in a railway accident just before he assumed office, Pierce suffered from symptoms indicating depression or post-traumatic stress during his term. The study noted that his associates accused Pierce of being a different person than the one who had energetically campaigned for office.

While personal tragedy and the weight of the presidency may have incited the problems of some presidents, others were apparently afflicted long before they moved into the White House.

According to the article, contemporaries of Grant, James Madison, Rutherford Hayes and Woodrow Wilson who watched them as young men would have thought that these men would do very little with their lives based on their seeming mental problems or deficiencies.

Whether they were suffering from an illness before they entered the White House or not, presidents’ afflictions raise questions about their ability to do the executive job.

“The extensiveness of Richard Nixon’s alcohol abuse was pretty remarkable and alarming, given the authority he had,” Swartz said.

Though Calvin Coolidge’s hypochondria may not have had the most profound effect on affairs of state, Coolidge, Grant and Thomas Jefferson were diagnosed with social phobia by Davidson and his associates.

“Social phobia is kind of remarkable in a president. It meant he was shy and avoided social circumstances, and yet he was president,” Swartz said.

The study noted among its implications that no national calamities seem to have been a result of presidential mental illness.

It also considered the possibility that knowledge of these afflictions might lessen the stigma of psychological treatment. But there remains a question about the public’s right, and need, to know the psychological state of the president, in an age of increased psychological vigilance.

“It’s obviously about as stressful and physically demanding a job as there is for mature adults, so it has to at least exacerbate any [already existing] problems,” Aldrich said. “You know, the president is not a person, he’s an institution…. There are a lot of checks and redundancies to make sure he doesn’t do anything foolish.”

What do you think?

We are not alone 😉

Fifteen Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy

Published May 14, 2013 by harleyquinnly

Image

This article is like a personal to-do list for me. 

Unknown author, “Fifteen Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy,” World Observer Online, http://worldobserveronline.com/2012/04/25/15-things-you-should-give-up-to-be-happy/ (accessed May 14, 2013).

Here is a list of 15 things which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier. We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress free and happy – we cling on to them. Not anymore. Starting today we will give up on all those things that no longer serve us, and we will embrace change. Ready? Here we go:

1. Give up your need to always be right. There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?”Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?


2. Give up your need for control. 
Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu

3. Give up on blame. Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.

4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk. Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle

5. Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!

“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” Elly Roselle

6. Give up complaining. Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.

7. Give up the luxury of criticism. Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.

8. Give up your need to impress others. Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take of all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.

9. Give up your resistance to change. Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” 
Joseph Campbell

10. Give up labels. Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

11. Give up on your fears. Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
 Franklin D. Roosevelt

12. Give up your excuses. Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.

13. Give up the past. I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.

14. Give up attachment. This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another,  attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.

15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations. Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves.  You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.

Why are Holidays Difficult?

Published November 29, 2012 by harleyquinnly

Usually around Thanksgiving until just after the New Year, I deal with depression far worse than any other time of the year. I am not anti-Christmas, contrary to popular belief. I’ve been pondering why the holidays are so difficult for me. In addition, I’ve included some tips that may help. What’s your way to remain calm throughout the holidays?

 1. Winter was not a good time for my ancestors

Several far gone ancestors suffered and died during the winter months. In my lifetime, the deaths of family members have mostly occurred in the latter portion of the year. Not only do I always lose at least one family member, I am reminded of who is missing at the family dinners.

 2. Stress

I take more anxiety medication during the holidays than any other time, including finals week of the semester. Deciding which family members to see when in a short amount of time prove the largest stress. I love seeing and visiting with family but it often results in logistical nightmares trying to get everyone’s schedule to agree. Then there are overnight accommodations and a resulting lack of sleep for two days. By the end of the three day holiday, I am exhausted and sleep deprived, haven’t had a moment to myself except for in the shower, and tired from resisting from being cranky. Holidays require an extra day in which to recover.

It is at this time that it becomes more than apparent that I am not Suzie Homemaker. I abhor cooking (but not baking), which the holiday seems to revolve around. On the other hand, I am very good at gift wrapping.

Gifting also makes me nervous. On the show The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon spazzes over gift giving, worrying that it will not be what the recipient wants, appropriate cost, etc. I have similar worries, especially living on a student budget.

On top of all the personal stress, I also use winter break as a time to complete school projects that would otherwise be impossible to complete during the regular semester. Because I am not enrolled in classes, most people do not understand that I still have work to do. As a result, I am seen as avoiding people.

 3. I am not a Christian         

As an Agnostic, Christmas is a time when I am bombarded with “Keep the Christ in Christmas,” tirades against the term “Xmas,” etc. While I am not opposed to Christianity, I do not appreciate it shoved down my throat for three months. And heaven forbid you mention Christmas came from a Pagan holiday. I have often wished to leave the country for a less religious one during this time.

 4. I remember the dreams not yet obtained

For some reason, my mind chooses the end of the year to analyze my life. Most often these thoughts go towards what I want that I still have yet to accomplish. Most of this involves anxiety as to how my personal life will turn out. I overanalyze personal relationships and their possibility in leading to a happy and fulfilling future.

 5. It’s frickin’ cold

I am a person that doesn’t handle cold temperatures well. I have Raynard’s Phenomenon, which is a fancy term for extremities that turn colors and experience frostbite at higher temperatures than normal people. So not only am I stressed, my skin is dry and itchy, my hands and feet are in constant pain. On the positive side, they turn pretty festive colors.

If it snows or ices, I am forced to remain in an apartment for multiple days, with or without power. While one snow day is amazing, after multiple days of the same 1,200 square foot hell, it starts to turn into a small scale version of The Shining. I’ve been so desperate to get out I’ve walked somewhere. The lack of sunlight is also not conducive to any kind of happiness.

 6. Unrealistic expectations and overcommercialization

Due to the millions of Hallmark commercials and displays, Norman Rockwell arts, Coca-Cola ads, we see Christmas as a perfect, nuclear family-oriented day. Kids will be polite and quiet, excited for their Christmas gifts. The adult women will be happy to spend all day in the kitchen while the men will sit calmly watching football. In the evening, the perfect dinner with perfect tableware will be served to a quiet, mingling family. And afterwards, the dishes magically disappear, the kids fall asleep with their new toys, and the adults share a small glass of wine while marveling at the glorious Christmas tree. This does not happen, at least as far as I know.

However, due to these expectations we are often a little disappointed and depressed with the way our Christmases actually turn out. Maybe we have to spend the majority of time traveling between divorced parents, distanced siblings, or keeping some family members from killing others. Some relative will ask the embarrassing and inappropriate questions of ‘why aren’t you married?’ ‘Why don’t you have kids,” or ‘You’ve gained weight.’ This will also cause an acceleration of reason number four. ‘Yes, I’m not married, thanks for pointing that out.’

The “holiday blues” affect many people. If you have a family or friend that may seem a little more blue than normal, don’t simply call them a Grinch. They may be dealing with more than you know.

 Suggestions to prevent holiday stress and depression

 1. Snuggies, blankets, portable heaters, fireplaces, and hot chocolate

            Comfy conditions definitely help, especially when it’s cold outside

2. Make realistic expectations for the holiday season

            It is what it is.

3. Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.

            Learn to say no. And don’t feel guilty about it-you are only human.

4. Live in the moment, focus on the “right now”

            Rather than the fourteen million things you need to do, enjoy whatever is happening

5. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the “good old days” of the past.

6. Find holiday activities that are free

Look at at holiday decorations, go window shopping. You could also have movie or video game marathons.

7. Limit your consumption of alcohol         

Alcohol is a depressant. Excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.

8. Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way

            But don’t get too excited until you have the agreement of your significant other/family. Some are not as open to changing their holidays or creating new ones.

9. Spend time with supportive and caring people.

10. Make time for yourself!

“Me” time reduces the homicide rate

11. Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks

12. Keep track of your holiday spending

Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over. Extra bills with little budget to pay them can lead to further stress and depression.

13. Be crafty!

I find that doing a craft, which can be holiday oriented or not, can be very relaxing. Then you can give away your crafts as gifts. One year I made ornaments. I have also gotten together with a friend and made our Christmas crafts together.

14. Remember the holidays will end

%d bloggers like this: