Tales of depression and victory: Sunday kind of blues

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Life is unfair, especially towards Mondays 🙂

Why are they dubbed ‘blue’, ‘tough’ and even ‘horrific’? It’s Sunday that deserves the epithets.

Sunday is a rare bitch. Even if you’re a free-spirited self-employed person with already fading memories of the cubicle life. But still, you’ve got the scratchy feeling in the throat once the Medusa of Sunday shoots a devastating look at you.

Indigo blue mixed with gray spots in between. This is the color of Sunday. And it always smells and feels like rain.It’s also a day of seeing my therapist. A good reason to wake up in the morning and cheer yourself up (and cheat yourself) with cheesy affirmations.

Sunday can zeroize all your efforts of the week: just like that. It’s a PMS bitch. Even though you don’t have to fear the idea of Monday – as it’s a regular day with a chunk of freelance work from home – you feel the jitters.

Again, the blues will squeeze in the most cowardly way. ..Out of nowhere – it seems. But in the middle of crying you will catch the thought. Mostly – it’s the overarching feeling of despair. Stronger than all of the cheesy affirmations and scarier than the fear of public speaking. You know it will go away, but you also feel it is not going to leave you any time soon. All you want is just to get rid of it. Swallow a dozen of antidepressants. Cry yourself out of the despair. Scream – a scary but effective option. Beat the pillow. Beat yourself. Go away. Disappear… The most frequent wish.

Suddenly you feel all the tears are gone. No power to hold a tear. And total emptiness.

No single wish. Peace. “I don’t care” mood. Just an insatiable desire to sleep. Sleep.

Sleep…More and more. As you don’t feel like greeting the sun in the morning. It’s just a shitty ball of fire which unfortunately brings a new day to the world and one has to wake up and live it. A sad prospect, as all you want to do is disappear in the blackest hole of the universe.  It’s Sunday – you think – and it’s only natural. Monday will repeat itself and Tuesday will be bearable. Just live until Tuesday. And then – you’ll see.

The thought is comforting. It will not last forever. Nothing lasts forever. It shall pass, too…

To be continued with solutions to Sunday syndrome

Tales of depression and victory: episode 1

depression-title-image_tcm7-188201Today I can’t keep silent. I’m sitting in our candlelit sitting room. The lights are off, so no internet and full of time to at last set to my narrative.

I am going to write about depression. Not the state of being depressed, but the real, devastating, mind and heart-draining depression. Spiced up with anxiety and panic attacks.

It’s time for the world to acknowledge the plague of the 21st century. It’s not cancer. It’s the cancer of soul, depression. It’s time for people to take care of their mental health – even more than they do about their physical condition.

I am not talking about the state of ‘the blues’ that we once in a while experience. I want to write about the chronic sense of emptiness, constant feeling of insecurity and panic, and uncontrollable crying triggered from seemingly nothing. And, above all, the background track called ‘Despair’…

If it all rings a bell, I don’t envy you…and your loved ones. You’re now a tough burden for yourself and your family (no matter how hard they try to convince you of the opposite).

I am writing these lines during those happy moments when a ray of light comes into the dark room of your thoughts and brooding. No, I am not hopeless. I still preserved the sense of pleasure and some happy moments within a day – connected with swimming, walking and…crying out loud on the shoulder of my family members.

But I strongly believe that depression is not a life sentence. It’s just a temporary imprisonment in the fortress of your thoughts and fears and failures. They are the guards of the prison. Severe and alert. Sometimes they sleep and you manage to catch the fresh breath of air from your prison window.

The daily dose of crying is over. Every day it starts almost the same way and ends in the embrace of different family members or friends. The good old panic attack is an unpredictable bitch. It likes fooling me around, pretending it’s headache or stomachache, or even it’s gone for good through a touch of a magic wand. But I feel it’s coming from the very first step it takes. It’s the old Chinese torture – the dropping water over the head of a prisoner, with the single difference that it’s you and your thoughts that have started the torture, not an external force. Yes. You and your attitude to reality, people, situations, success and failure, love and despair, expectations and inevitable disenchantment.

Today I cried right in the street. I was stepping out of granny’s house when it started. I was with mom. No longer could I hide my pain from her. I did it for too long. I spared her feelings. But I couldn’t keep silent any longer. That’s another thing about the attacks. Suddenly you stop caring about what others will think. The only thing you want is get rid of the huge shark of pain in your throat which threatens to swallow your whole being. Crying and screaming are the only solutions. I am lucky to be able to loosen like that. There are people who say they can’t. It’s horrible.

I didn’t care about people looking at me in the street, holding my mom’s hand and crying right in the middle of walking. I just wanted (as always) to get rid of the tons of lead in my heart, mind and body at the moment. An attack doesn’t differentiate between places. It just happens. And leaves you desperate and frightened – if it’s for the first time, or in the full swing.

Sounds familiar? I want to hug you, my friend. This is what my friends always do and this is what is the best healer, the best method. Don’t tell them to stop or to be strong, or to be ashamed. It has the opposite effect. Just be there. Just hold her/his hand. Say – I am with you and I will protect you. Let her cry away all the pain. It may come again, but she will feel safer.

It’s time to confess to ourselves: depression and anxiety are the banes of the century. Too high expectations, life paces, ambitions, illusions about love, perfect Facebook couples posting their every kiss…It doesn’t have to be a major bereavement and adversity to trigger the depression. Vice versa, the small and at the first glance trifling events may conceive it. Don’t blame yourself for being weak. It happens to the strongest. Don’t blame yourself for being pessimistic and desperate – it may happen to the most optimistic of us. Don’t think it has gone for good…it’s such an obtrusive bitch, it won’t leave you so easily…Be prepared for her possible arrival on your next station.

I am a super emotional and passionate creature, and my energy is often turned into a destructive one.

But I am not going to analyze myself. My therapist does it quite well. I am feeling so relieved while writing these words. I can write – and this is my weapon against panic and anxiety. This is my answer to depression. Yes I got weaker and I cry a lot and I am damn desperate at times, but I am a winner. I lost a battle but I will win the war. Because I am stronger than you. Because I have so many precious people around me, who help me in all the possible and impossible ways. Because I know they do care. And that’s what’s the most important thing in life. That’s a treasure that I am grateful for.

Be grateful, when you’re desperate. I know it’s hard to do as you are obsessed with the things you don’t have. But – do be grateful. For the simple joys of life. For this very moment. For this very second.

I will come out a different person. More mature and patient. This is my mantra which doesn’t seem to work…

To be continued…

Job-hunt: our top 3 outrageous interview situations

 

The most absurd questions at job interviews

Sometimes we deal with abusive interviewers

-How was the interview?

 

-Oh, as usual. They started asking me absurd questions and I backfired with a tirade of sarcastic answers.

This was one of the typical dialogues between my friend and Ruzanna over the past few months when she was seeking a job after quitting her seemingly posh yet juice-draining position as a store manager.

As nо less experienced and pained interviewee, I would start mildly hinting her to be more tolerant to get a job, to be patient (the one word that could infuriate her most of all!) and so on and so forth; but, excuse me, how to stay cool-headed when an interviewer, for instance, asks if you’re ready to make coffee for the boss and his guests on a daily basis while you’re not applying for the secretary position. (Well, at least, let’s be thankful then that we are informed about this subtle “nuance” of the job beforehand).

So, inspired by our shared bitter practice and this BBC Capital article, I picked up top 3 ridiculous interview situations we went through which may be useful  in your quest for landing a dream job (of course, if such exists):

  1. We’re hiring that’s why YOU are more interested.  This situation is vividly illustrated by having you wait for the super VIP HR manager for more than 15 minutes without further “sorry for waiting” (hey, by the way, politeness is a universal virtue). In one of such cases, I told the recruiter I had to go earlier because of their delay. Interview in fact is a two-way street: you need a job- but they (most likely) need your skills and experience – that’s why respect and understanding should be mutual. If they don’t value your time in the very beginning of your possible co-operation, they are not likely to do it afterwards.
  2. We’re hiring that’s why WE are asking questions. This one logically follows the bullet 1. Once, as a newly graduated linguistics major I was interviewed for an administrative position at a VIP fitness club in my hometown. After the standard questions and Einstein test (!why the hell is it needed if you all have to do is amiably greet the guests and record their names and such kind of stuff?!- another ridiculous situation, indeed), I attempted to ask some questions about the position. With a look of an intelligence agent aware of the top state secrets and not willing to give them away under the threat of death, the HR condescended to answer. “You will learn everything IF (read: you, common mortal, how did you dare to even ask it!)you pass on to the next stage. Period. Lord knows how many nights I didn’t sleep trying to figure it out – even when I learnt I didn’t pass (read: sarcastic smile 🙂
  3. And, finally, the “epic” one. We are hiring that’s why WE can belittle your experience to make you agree on our terms. Or, the so-called interview abuse.

“4 years of experience as a store manager?Well, it’s easier than the sales officer job you’re applying for. Isn’t it JUST coordinating and organizing the things?”, my friend quoted her last met HR as saying this while trying to look a super qualified professional. The tactic of downsizing Ruzanna’s skills backfired with a bunch of sarcastic comments before she gracefully left the office (oh, I wish I could see it!). She’s eventually found a decent job, that’s not the issue. The thing is that in our digital age it’s so easy to scare away the right professionals from your company by such a behavior (the opposite holds true, too): a few Facebook statuses or just the life-tested word-of-mouth are enough to gain a certain (not favorable) image among job-seekers.

And, lastly, dear recruiters! Of course, you will have your “side” of the story, too. Feel free to share if you happen to read this perhaps not-so-pleasant entry.

Dear job-seekers,

I’m sure you have your own bitter, funny, ridiculous or outrageous interview story. Let’s share and help the newly-grads not to get desperate in such situations and deal with them with dignity and a bit of irony.

Toxicity detected, or why are some people always unhappy?

 

Unhappy

Do you know any “always unhappy” person?

In one of my previous posts, we together unveiled how to identify and shield ourselves against emotional vampires. Let’s face it we’re all sometimes sieged by them, moreover, at times, we are the Draculas! (Not the funny one from my favorite Hotel Transylvania, but the real one- emotionally depleting and horrible).

 

Now let’s talk about a particular vampire “species” – “the always unhappy and complaining” type. They are toxic. But I’m not going to bash them: the inner discomfort may be deeply enrooted in the childhood or family circumstances; nor am I going to justify their being “a pain in the ass” for their surroundings. Let’s just discuss the reasons for their chronic unhappiness. If any of my readers identifies himself/herself of her friend, for instance, with the “type”, it will be useful for them to ponder over the reasons and try to eliminate them: not only for the sake of “the unluckiest person in the world whose problems are alien to anyone else in the world” but for your sake in the first place 🙂

  1. They’re not grateful for what they feel and have. Rather, they obsess over their not having enough money, friends, energy, resources, time (!), marital status, support from parents and spouse, support from strangers (!), support from God! and, continue the list, for being happy. Now listen: enough is enough and I’m going to be harsh on you with the simple truth. There is no “enough”. We humans are greedy creatures and our exponentially growing needs die hard to our resources at any single given moment.  As cliched as it may sound, just be grateful. The only path to harmony is thankfulness for the things we experience first and the things we have secondly.

2. They think their problems are the worst in the world and everyone owes to listen to them dwelling upon their hardships (for at least, 2 hours, for instance- offline or online :). That’s ridiculous. I’m deeply convinced that nature is so balanced, the give-and-take mechanism is so perfect that all the people are “granted” with the same amount of problems and are obliged to make sacrifices at this or that point of their lives. If someone chooses just not to overwhelm you with their troubles, worries, routine problems or even the major ones, that doesn’t mean he/she is on top of the world with joy and luck. That doesn’t mean I urge you to ignore a friend who feels like sharing and is going through a tough time. But you certainly have one who ALWAYS goes through a tough time and you don’t see an end to it.

3. And, lastly, by default, they believe life is hard. Well, you and I don’t think it’s a piece of a  strawberry marmalade, either, do we? But we don’t reiterate it and try to prove it to others by our being permanently disenchanted (or, at least, I hope so – in the majority of cases:) ) And again it boils down to the “victim” mindset. Listen. Life is hard for EVERYONE. I repeat- ev-ery-one. Now, are you a bit happy about it? Just a bit? Keep repeating it to yourself, my chronically discontent friend, as a mantra, whenever you feel like flushing your problems to your parents, spouses, friends or colleagues. Make it your affirmation in the morning, or do with it whatever you feel like. In addition, be grateful and think of others’ problems (by the way, supporting others rather than expecting support from others also helps), and maybe in near future you’ll notice you have all the “enoughs” to be happy!

Process vs. results. What’s more important?

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Results vs goals, what’s more important?

What’s more fulfilling: the road you carve toward your goals or the ultimate result?
Admit it: there is something devastating in having the sacred dream of life-changing goal realized. But, the unhappiest time is when you reach the goal you thought would make you happy but eventually you end up feeling bitter emptiness. “What’s next”?- you wonder. “Is this it?”

Unless you have some new goal “ in store” you are sure to feel this way. So, is life equaling to a chain of mechanical actions? Goals- fulfillment-other goals- fulfillment?

Not at all. In-between, there is a whole palette of emotions- hope, faith, disappointment, anger, fury, anticipation and the long-awaited fulfillment. And, of course, the piercing feeling of guilt after you reach it. (“I don’t deserve it”, – the so-called “imposter syndrome“).

So, the answer to the question is just to stop asking it in the first place.

Stop it. Just live. Breathe in peace, breathe out anxiety. Relish the process, do your best and even more but don’t link your happiness to the result, nor tie it to people, phenomena or circumstances.

“Easier said than done”- you’ll probably argue. That’s what I’m doing right now while I scribble these lines. But who said “the easy” is the friend of “the happy”? 🙂

 

A no-nonsense tip for success, or the power of asking

Knock and the door will be opened.

Knock and the door will be opened.

Like in the popular cartoons, this morningI felt an invisible lamp being lit over my head;  the so-called “a-ha” moment, and I want to share my insight with you.

As usual, it happened when I was injecting my morning dose of inspiration on BBC.com Capital into my brains. “The Three Secrets of Getting What You Want”- the clickbait headline already foreboded a mix of ultimate reading pleasure and a promise of tangible outcomes (read: subsequent actions).

I’m not going to criticize or summarize the article. Rather, I’ll focus on the  single point that rang a bell to me. Asking as a prerequisite for getting what you  dream about. And this is when I realized the only gross obstacle pulls me back and halts my progress toward the goals: I suck at asking because I’m too proud, sometimes lazy, and other times just foolish, and even when I ask the time spent on the decision-making drains the energy that could have been spent more efficiently on my goals.

“Ask and it shall be given to you”, the famous Bible quote swirled into my mind (which is rare given my not being a keen Christian or an overly religious person) which started conflicting with another thought-provoking quote by my favorite Mikhail Bulgakov: “You should never ask anyone for anything. Never- and especially from those who are more powerful than yourself.” (NB: Woland’s advice to Margarita).

Sorry, my favorite Bulgakov, author of immortal “Master and Margarita”. With all my love and respect to your masterpiece, these words are not up-to-date anymore. The life realities haves changed. Life speeds have so much accelerated that one can’t have the luxury of sitting back and waiting when those “who are more powerful” to notice your merits (for instance, to give you the deserved raise or recognition at work).

And my recent life experience has come to prove that. Of course, it took me months to take the step of asking to later find out it’s not at all humiliating and tough, especially when you’re sure you deserve what you ask for.  The result? I got what I wanted (even if it was a short-term fix), and I’m not sure if I would if I hadn’t asked.

A conclusion? Besides your personal strategies and tactics (share, please, if you do anything specific and out-of-box to reach your goals), the overused “visualization” and already cliche “positive thinking” strategies, just ask for the particular thing you want to have for your longer-term goals, and 90 times out 100 you will be rewarded. After all, rejection is better than regret.

Can shopping beat the blues? Shopping vs alternative  “therapies”

At one point, things start owning us

At one point, things start owning us

What do you do while distressed, frustrated, anxious or furious? I bet 2 out of 3 (women) will answer- go shopping! It holds true to me, too.

Quick statistics.

Having an apartment repaired was a well-grounded reason  for me to “inventory” my belongings (apart from all the side effects of any repairs- chronic headache, more frequent family conflicts and lack of the special tint of lemon-grass-yellow that I wanted to have on my walls :)), reflect upon my shopping volume and choices and make better decisions for future.

40% of the clothing I bought about 2 years ago is either “too boring now” or “just reminded me of unpleasant moods and situations in past” (NB: a self- quote). So- off they went to be donated. A noble decision, indeed. But it made me wonder: can I live with less and still feel more fulfilled. Or, to be more precise, can the things make us happier, or, if they can, what volume of them?

Yes and no. Yes- for a while, no- when their alarming portions become inversely proportional to your purse contents. The more you get- the more you want to get. It’s an axiom.

Sometimes, feeling like a short-term fix, I run from a store to store and hoard a couple of clothing items to show them off next day at the office (which is prevailingly female and thus very scrupulous and judgmental about your looks). What comes next is disenchantment and even more frustration at the thought that I could save the money for my next travel destination (the strongest impulse to resist the purchase 🙂 ).

But in other times, I just fill in the void by just activities that are not associated with squandering money. Below I share the list in the hope everyone can pick a “therapy” for him/her to swap it with excessive shopping.

  1. Bibliotherapy – or, to put it in simpler terms, reading fiction. Next time when distressed or listless or just itching for an extra pair of jeans, direct your steps to the nearest bookstore. Here is how I practiced this therapy and read away the apathy. Even if you don’t eventually buy a book, you’ll be much positively influenced by the process distracting yourself from your problems.
  1. Music- therapy”. Have you heard about Mozart effect? A whole scientific research is devoted to the impact of the great composer’s music on brain and emotions. In fact, I’m convinced it refers to other composers and genres of (good) music. My recent finding is that there is no gloomy mood – there is incorrectly chosen music. My personal favorite choices are: something energizing for morning (pop or rock), Bach and baroque music for studying and working and lounge/ambient for evening.
  2. Travel. To be more precise – saving for travel and planning. Yes, it’s more pricey than the posh red pumps enticing you from the shop window. Yet it’s a powerful stimulus to not buy the extra pair and rather invest money in your next travel site.
  3. Friends– therapy”. Can there be anything more heart-warming and fulfilling than a casual chit-chat, existential ruminations or even crying with your bestie over a glass of wine on a dreary (for you, the depressed) fall day? Maybe, traveling with her/him could be J Anyways, force yourself (I know it’s hard when you’re blue) to meet him/her or them and talk away the blues. At least, for an evening.
  1. Writing. Well, this one is very specific. It’s my “thing” that keeps me sane in tough times, while others get even more frustrated while faced with the blank sheet of paper. Anyways, it’s worth a try. Just jot down your thoughts without judgment and go with the flow- here is the best strategy. You can only toss it away and scroll up to the above mentioned “methods”.

Okay, now, let’s clarify something. None of the “therapies” is a miracle cure, or a full replacement of shopping. Of course, you and I need a healthy portion of shopping-spree in the search of decent outfits. Let’s just keep it less and sweet and balance with non-material activitiesJ that are fulfilling in the long run.

P.S. What do you normally do when stressed out? Maybe, something extraordinary? Don’t shy away! Share on the comment section below!

“Cheer up” and 5 more taboos not to comfort your depressed friend with

"Cheer up" is no effective

“Cheer up” is no effective

Recently, I’ve come across a very thought-provoking article written by one of my favorite columnists, Oliver Burkeman, for The Guardian. With his challenging irony and sarcasm, the author argues the pointlessness of the “comforting” commands such as “cheer up”, “calm down” that you and I often use to help a depressed friend.

“Is there anything more annoying than being told to cheer up when you’re feeling down?…if you could cheer up by choice, you’d already have done so”. Couldn’t be said better- spot on!

That’s what I’ve been experiencing and mulling over lately which resulted in drafting my own top 8 list of the taboo phrases that you shouldn’t catch yourself telling to a grieving person (or even the ones who’re just slightly depressed). Not because you should be tough. With your best intentions considered, these “soothing” phrases are merely pointless (remember a single time you instantly soared with happiness after your best friend’s ”cheer up” command. That never happened, right?).

So, here you go. Remember and immediately forget these phrases when you’re dealing with a suffering heart.

“Pull yourself together” (=”calm down”). Yes, she will calm down. But after she’s cried herself into sleep (I’m not aware of the man’s actions. Maybe beating the punching bag to the thrash rock music? :).

“Look on the bright side”.  She/he won’t see any colors on the “side”. They won’t even see the “side”.

“Life is wonderful”.  Only to others, not him/her. Now everything sucks.

“Take it easy”. Do you want her/him to get furious in addition to being deeply sorrowful?

“You’re not the first and last person to have gone through this”. This one is my favorite. Yes, she/he’s mature enough to realize that “everything shall pass”, and repetition in this case is the mother of not learning but even more grieving.

What could you do instead? Just listen compassionately and even validate his/her sorrow. From my experience, that helps  overcome the blues faster. Only then, when the critical period is passed can you make him/her dress up and have a nice evening together over a glass of wine.  That’s my “therapy” (another effective one being the bibliotherapy) against “the cheer up” treatment 🙂

What are your observations? Do you have your own list? Please, contribute to the post with your comments 🙂

“Smart” detox: the results and conclusions

Try to rest from digital world from time to time.

Try to rest from digital world from time to time.

A couple of weeks ago, I screwed up all my willpower and decided to leave my smartphone home together with the hustle and bustle of the city for the week-end. What came out of it was that my phone screwed up, too 🙂 But in the negative meaning of the word.

I guess it was a terminal offense to my poor device: upon my arrival, it crashed. To be more precise, it became an ordinary cellphone without Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Just like that. No failed landings on the floor, no bathings in the water. Nothing. Just a final and categorical No Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

So, my smartphone diet was involuntarily prolonged (as fixing the issue cost me quite a lot of money and time which is another story). I blew away the dust from the once-posh Motorola L6 and embarked on the smart-less journey.

As a “glass is half-full” person, I decided to take advantage of my new circumstances. Just to relax, not to check for notifications and messages every 10 minutes, to toss away the trash information that’s the social media is overstuffed with and relish other joys of the non-tech life. The results?

  1. More peaceful sleep and no rushing to grab the phone to look through Facebook updates. Instead, 15 minutes of productive writing and reading time in the morning.
  2. Less backache. We’re doing too much texting with our backs twisted and our heads bent causing the constant tension on the neck and back.
  3. More time for my long-forgotten hobbies, such as playing the piano.
  4. And lastly, more quality time to connect with family. (By the way, they turned out to be quite interesting conversationalists 🙂
  5. But for the constant need for my favorite playlists and the camera every now and then, I’d never miss this piece of technology. Honestly, I didn’t have the desire to chat or comment or check notifications on social networks for all this while.

The conclusion? I’m going to deliberately “leave” my smartphone somewhere inside my desk and organize such “smart” detoxications once a month, at least for 2 days. (I’d do more if my job allowed it). And I strongly recommend you to enhance your lifestyle with this simple yet very salient method. Let’s go even further- do digital detox– computer and phone-free days once in a while! 🙂

P.S. My smartphone is  now ok, of course, not without considerable money investments 🙂