Category Archives: mental health

A tidal wave of mental health issues is next and we’re not remotely ready to deal with it.

Last night I watched the beginning of CNN Heroes, a look back at the year and who did special, amazing things. The first segment featured a bunch of front-line health workers who spent the year caring for Covid victims. They’re a support group that gets away to talk and do things together. Last night’s segment showed them rock climbing. It’s called the Hero Recharge Program, provided by a non-profit called First Descents.

One of the people they interviewed said that she went to work every day knowing that she’d have PTSD when this all ended. But she did it anyway, because that’s the job. Most won’t get a week in nature for a break. They’ll just work through it.

The woman spoke of things that she pushed forward, with the implication that she’d have to deal with them someday when this was over and there was time. That’s what people do when they’re in impossible circumstances–they do what they need to and understand at some level that there’s a mess waiting for them on the other side.

It’s not just the health professionals that’ll need attention if and when we get past this. It’ll be the parents who juggled job demands with at-home school and kids who were confined to home with no friends around. For them, there was no off switch.

It’s the kids who need the socialization of their friends to get by, who are building their emotional framework for life–and had that interrupted by a big disease that made their parents angry and irritable. And made them lonely and mad.

It’s the people trying to run a business around shutdowns and people staying in, who had to become more resourceful every damn day. It’s the people who lost their jobs and had to figure out a way to move forward anyway, who have months of rent due–and whose protections are set to run out in a few weeks.

And to a lesser extent, it’s all of us, who watched the world go to hell on several different fronts and couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Except sit inside and stew as everything fell apart around us.

This won’t be over when it’s over. The immediate threat of the Covid will fade as people get vaccinated. It might take until the second half of 2021 or longer. But it will eventually pass.

And outwardly, in spite of some not believing in the pre-pandemic mindset, life will return to something like 2019.

But the rippled of this year will be present for decades to come, starting with the wave of mental illness from those who experienced it worse.

As we go forward, we need to take care of ourselves. If ever there were a time in our history to stop looking for ways to exclude people, the 2020s will be it.

Right now, there’s nothing to indicates we’re collectively up to the task.


I’m tired of the (ab)normal crap; let’s get ready for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is two weeks from Thursday. Under normal circumstances, if people are looking at the National Hurricane Center website, it’s too early for Thanksgiving content. And then 2020 hit.

Because it’s 2020, let’s break out the festive Thanksgiving stuff a little early. Odds are pretty good this year, the holiday will be different, so why not cheat a little with a nice Thanksgiving radio promotion from the late 1970s?

If that’s not enough, maybe it’s time to just slap the living crap out of what annoys us so we can just enjoy the time leading up to the holiday.

That clip really requires a little set up. You see in How I Met Your Mother, Robin was in this video…never mind. It’s Neil Patrick Harris getting slapped into Christmastime by Jason Segel’s big beefy hand. Make you want to flash back to the time when John Madden used to give out mutant turkeys with 8 million drumsticks and ducks, inside chickens, inside turkey.

And sometimes family can be dicey. You try to have a nice meal and then everything goes wrong. Tempers flare and then the whole holiday just becomes a big damn food fight. Especially when the little pop thing doesn’t pop out.

Because at the end of the day, even if we don’t have everything perfect. It’s a day we can be united because ultimately it’s about coming to a safe place with people you love and enjoying the day for once.

Because most people love that type of thing. They love a day to just sit back and not worry about this, that, and the other. They just love to eat turkey.

In all seriousness, I hope that’s what you get this year, because we all need it. Maybe if that annoying relative starts with the politics, it’s time to gently suggest that for a day, maybe even a weekend, it’s time to just relax and enjoy it.

We all need that. And by starting to look forward to it now, maybe we’ll pick up our own moods so we can pick up others.


And then…depression set in

To be honest, it’s been tough this week.

Yeah, I know, there are people dying. I know there are people trying to stop those people dying and adding up a heavy psychological debt in the process. I know there are people trapped in bad situations, sheltering in place with someone harmful to them. I know there are unemployed people. I know there are single mothers with three little kids trying to work as best they can and care for them.

I know I’m in a better place than all of them.

I also know that I am prone a bit of depression and it’s been kind of a cloudy week. I know that when this started, I recognized I needed some more human interaction to maintain optimal mental health–and I wasn’t able to do that.

And I know that everyone’s a little stressed right now and, though everyone’s trying, well…everyone’s trying.

I can sit here and beat myself up. I can repeat the popular meme about how bad Anne Frank had it and shame myself into a better mindset.

Or I can accept it, weather it, and try to mitigate it.

Thursday evening was a little cool, so we got the fire pit out and sat at the end of the driveway with it for a while. Last night, we sat in the driveway with the neighbors, socially distanced, and talked. Today, I went for a bike ride. The light box has helped.

I’ve stopped listening to the daily news conferences. Given that my Facebook feel is a progression of Trump sucks and his followers are selfish idiots against fake news, liberty, thank God for this great, great man, you unAmerican creeps posts, I may back off it.

I’m writing this blog every day to kickstart my writing, and also to try to add something good into the discussion. Some days, that’s hard.

As much as there’s optimism about opening things up within the next few weeks, I don’t find that realistic. At least for me, this is likely to be a long haul.

We’re starting week seven of a separation that, for me, is likely to be measured in months.

So the valleys will come and go, but tomorrow will be there until God decides otherwise.

The best thing we can do–more than washing, distancing, masks, and the like–is to maintain the mental health that feeds the mental toughness required for this circumstance.


Cranky

I don’t know why, but I’m super cranky today. Maybe I had cranky-making dreams. Maybe it’s the way Windows 10 isn’t getting along with my laptop (Tip for everyone reading–go to the manufacturer’s website before you upgrade your OS and make sure your laptop is covered. Even if it was a midline laptop when you bought it three years ago.)

For the record, cranky is okay. We’re people, not robots. We’re not going to be shouting for glory every day of our existence.

It’s what you do with cranky.

Today, someplace in Saudi Arabia, a 21-year-old man is going to be beheaded and crucified for protesting against the government and possessing an illegal firearm (a charge he denies). That’s right. They’re going to behead him and then they’re going to crucify him as a warning to others, presumably.

I don’t include that because it makes me an awful human being for bring cranky. I include it as a cautionary tale about crankiness.

To be fair, in Saudi Arabia, we’re talking about institutional crankiness. This guy wasn’t tortured and isn’t being executed because someone had a bad day and let it spill over. Executions like this are what happens when we fail ultimately as human beings–the ultimate in crankiness.

I can’t behead someone or literally crucify them, but I can contribute to the circle of screaming. I get cranky then someone else is cranky to me and I figure, hey, I’m cranky and respond with proportional fire power. And then we’re both cranky. And then we cranky two friends and they cranky two friends and so on and so on and so on. Like the shampoo commercial, only with yelling.

So, today, I will try to do my best to break the circle. No promises, but that’s the plan. I won’t save the guy’s life in Saudi Arabia, but it’s what I can do today.

And if I screw it up, then I have a fresh day tomorrow to try again.

Not that it’s okay to be cranky today, but I’m less likely to be cranky tomorrow, if I stop beating myself up about it.


Affliction

I am afflicted by depression.

There. I’ve said it. If I were famous, you could contact my publicist and I’d come on your show (I’m depressed; buy my book.).

I’m just a guy with a family and a job, trying to get to the end of the day.

No one would choose to see the world the way I sometimes do. (Well, maybe a Jets fan…)

And then depression set in…

Depression has been part of my life for a long time and it’ll probably continue. I need to own my circumstance so I can do better for myself and for the people around me.

I’m not Eeyore. I’m capable of being happy. I just have to work at it a little more.

I don’t expect the world to accommodate me. People wear glasses so they can see better; I’m doing these things so I can live better:

  • I get outside where it’s brighter and I can get direct exposure to sunlight. Bright light is bad for gremlins, but great for people like me.

Bright light! Bright light!

  • I interact with people, even when I don’t feel like it.
  • I’m taking fish oil pills to get Omega 3 fatty acids. (If you freeze fish oil pills, they don’t come back on you.)
  • I do something at least once each day to make me happy. Some things are little, like working outside. Some are big, like Tough Mudder.
  • I take stock of things and people around me that are really awesome and how cool that makes my life. Hint: it’s pretty cool.
  • I exercise, which literally rewires your brain. (It also makes me rock a sport jacket and tie. I rook mahvelous. Absolutely mahvelous.)

You do rook mahvelous, dahling. And you know who you are.

  • I could be doing better at eating clean, but I’m working at it. Sugar and other processed crap adds to your body’s inflammation, which adds to depression.

And I’m part of a small group of similarly challenged people. That’s a big help. It’s always easier when people around you understand and can pick you up.

If you read this and think Hooray. Yet another true confession, this post isn’t for you.

If you feel like you’re running in loose sand while everyone else runs on the pavement, if you feel like the color is gone and 50 shades of gray isn’t sexy, it’s just a crappy way to live…

If you feel those things, this is for you. Your challenge is real and it’s difficult. If you’re functional and successful, you aren’t a big sissy, you’re running in sand and keeping up with the people on pavement.

This blog won’t become Chris’s Depression Corner. If you want to read sad stuff, read about the Jets. But I need to deal with this part of my life to be fit and healthy. And I’m not alone.


Fitness, nutrition, and…what else?

As I write this, it’s been a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week. Not a day, mind you. A week. On top of a few weeks that have been less terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad–but the trendline’s been moving upward.

I kind of lost it this week.

Fortunately, I was able to get a reset. I went to a church group and listened way more than I spoke. But eventually I asked questions and one of the questions I asked was to be included in the prayer at the end.

And then I spent some time thinking about the circumstance and how I got there and decided part of the problem was me and that I needed to change my approach to things.

But I have more work to do.

I want to be happy. I’m happy about my fitness. I’m increasingly happy about the eating choices I make. But I want to be happy. Not just for a little while during a run, or if I’m working on a wonderful craft brew at the local brewpub (a wonderful thing about living here, now). I want happiness to be my base state.

That’s the third leg of the stool. Fitness, nutrition, and happiness. Or, if you prefer, fitness, nutrition, and spirit.

You can eat the right things and run your butt off. But there are amazingly unhappy people who do that. And chances are the fitness and nutrition won’t last if you aren’t happy. And for my money, if you’re happy, but you eat everything in sight and watch an average amount of TV or more, your happiness might eventually give way to health problems.

When I started this journey, it was about fitness. In the past several months, it’s been about fitness and nutrition. But to have the life I deserve, there’s more to it than that.

Insert mandatory Pharrell Williams video here.


You have to make time for games

A few weeks ago after a work event, we went to a local beverage-serving business (wink, wink) and played Jenga. It wasn’t Jenga the way you know it. It was Jenga where the game pieces were made of 2x4s. Giant Jenga. Big-as-my-butt Jenga.

With regular Jenga, the stakes aren’t very high. You pick the wrong one and the worst thing that happens is you have to help rebuild the tower. With big-as-my-butt Jenga, when you lose a game, the resulting collapse can wake the dead and register on the Richter scale. Put another way, you don’t stand next to the tower when it wasn’t your turn.

The best thing about big-as-my-butt Jenga was that it was fun.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want to lose–which I did twice. But I didn’t mind that much. I played with two other people and we all thoroughly enjoyed stacking the blocks two-thirds of the way to the ceiling.

Even losing was fun.

Today with email and projections and objectives and deadlines and goals, sometimes fun is a treated as a luxury. It’s something you can do when you’re far enough ahead that it won’t look bad. It’s something for off hours, maybe something you do when the kids are asleep and the dishes are washed and the bills are paid–which should give you maybe 56 seconds before it’s bed time, so you can get up and do it again.

In the past few weeks, a Facebook friend–someone I didn’t know–died of cancer. The husband of someone I worked with for an organization I’m in also died of cancer. Jeremiah Healy killed himself. And a woman I work for is still battling brain cancer.

It’s given me pause to think about priorities.

Sure, work’s important. In my belief system, the master invited his servant to enter into his joy after the work was done. But that doesn’t mean the work can’t be fun.

Life is the longest thing you’ll ever do, but it’s still pretty short. The seconds are numbered and your allotment could be used up at any time. Existence is a precious and finite thing.

Even more, look at the people who excel, the ones you look up to. Tell me they don’t have fun at their work. Tell me there isn’t joy.

It’s not going to be there every second. It might be a rare and precious thing for you. But at the end of your life, you won’t wish you’d treated more things like grave matters of earth-shattering importance.

Have some fun. It makes everything else easier.


We. Are going. To DIE! (So we might as well live for all we’re worth.)

Before today’s post, a word from the great Indiana Jones.

It’s true. Never in the course of humanity has there been a greater array of threats to humanity. Ebola. That mysterious flu-like thing going around. ISIS. ISIL. Global warming. Global climate change. Cancer. Heart disease. Income inequality. The Russians. The Chinese. The economy. That asteroid that’s going to certainly hit us someday. It hasn’t been like this since…well, since yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that. It’s enough to cause insanity!

Okay, this kind of insanity really is scary. But other than that…

Nuclear war was going to be the end of us. Before that was machine guns. Before that was something else. Tomorrow, it’ll be something else (sentient computers maybe?). And the day after that, we’ll all be here worried about today’s immediate threat that will wipe out life as we know it.

Duck and cover. Because a nuclear warhead can kill everything–except your desk and what’s under it.

Indy’s right. We are going to die. Everyone dies sometime, kiddo.

That means life is short and valuable. And rather than worry about the threat of the day–something I typically can’t do anything about anyway, I think I’ll live.

I think I’ll run or lift some weights. I think I’ll be happy to see people I haven’t seen in a while. I think I’ll do something to help someone around me. I think I’ll try to smile more than I did yesterday. I think I’ll try to say or do something to pick someone up.

The people trying to push all those causes of imminent demise don’t care about you. Not personally. They care about their cause, or their product. They care about trying to get you to see things their way. Or about convincing you to buy their book or vote for their candidate.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t care about things. The world is a better place when people care about things. But it’s also a better place when you’re not scared to death of it.

There’s something amazing you can see within 100 feet of you right now. And it’s not the latest headline blaring infinite doom.