“But you’re happier”

she said.  This was after I told her my concerns about not feeling the impulse to write.  I guess the impulse to write a lot of times had been that feeling of sadness, heaviness perhaps, and when that feeling is gone, the impulse leaves as well.  It could also just be paranoia that I’m feeling this way; this could all just be a placebo effect, a product of my keen awareness of the potential side-effects of contentment.

The fact is, I don’t write as much as I used to, and I don’t really know why.  Maybe part of it is the feeling that I don’t know who my audience is, since I rarely receive any feedback these days.  Without feedback, it’s difficult for me to know how I should write.  There is, on one level, the reasoning that this blog is for myself, but ultimately we write because we want to express something to someone– the reader.  Now, without knowing who the reader is, it is difficult to know what to say.  In high school, I remember I had a Xanga.  My high school friends read it and we would all make comments on each other’s blogs.  I would blog about school.  I would blog about the funny things our teachers said.  I would blog about the things we pondered.  I’m not even sure what I would say, but there was always more from where it came from.  Day after day, there existed a house within which my blog lived.  In that house, were all the comments between me and my friends.  I think those were my happy blogging days.

I think I reminisce a lot, partly because I have a revisionist brain.  I remember when I drew a picture of a cat in grade school.  I lost that picture, somewhere in my room, and would sometimes remember it and wonder where it had gone.  I would think about how it was one of my best drawings and how I couldn’t draw like that anymore.  Well I eventually found that picture in a box years later, and thought to myself, “Now why did I think this was so great?”.  Maybe my standards were different then, or maybe my memories were wrong, or maybe both.

Tomorrow I shall start school again.  I am nervous, perhaps more than usual.  As I slide further down the side of my bed, I try to quench the anxiety forming in my stomach.  It will have to be alright.

Let the Rain Fall Down

Yes, I used to listen to Hilary Duff.

My stress levels have been high lately, and as a result, the thoughts in my head start swirling at a tiresome speed.  They aren’t helpful, but at least I know that the thought itself is simply a thought, just like the experience of someone with road rage.  It’s not about what that car in front of us is doing, really.  And once we can separate ourselves from that, yes, we might just breathe a sigh of relief.

Emil Coccaro, a professor and psychiatrist at the University of Chicago, has studied Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) for many years. People with this disorder repeatedly respond with violent or verbally aggressive outbursts, disproportionate to any given situation. (Not all road-ragers have IED, but road rage can be a symptom of it.) He says that the psychological root of this behavior is often something called Hostile Attribution Bias—the belief that every accidental injury or threat is purposeful, and personal. People with IED over-personalize every interaction, and then over-react with immediate aggression.

The biases we have as human beings are so interesting to me.  Breathe in, that car might just be having a bad day.  Maybe their dog died.  Maybe their car just started having problems.

It reminds me of a time in Bible school when E told us how she was driving a bus on the freeway and it was having problems so she couldn’t go faster than like 40 miles an hour, if even that.  Imagine all those people who were glaring at her, honking at her, wondering what was going on.  Poor E.  And poor ignorant people.  If they had known, they would have spared themselves a lot of negative feelings.  We all thought the story was hilarious, though.  Good times.

Awkward

I am awkward, especially when I’m sick and make all kinds of mistakes without even knowing it.  I’m trying not to beat myself up over it, but it still feels like it deserves its own post.  Awkward.  This word is awkwardness itself.  What is “awkward”?  I’m saying from a purely philosophical and psychological standpoint, not from a practical standpoint.  I want to know.  What defines it?  There are lots of studies on love, anger, depression, happiness, fear, sympathy.  But what about awkwardness?  Are there any studies on what gets defined as “awkward”, why we feel awkward, and where it comes from?  That would be, well, awkward.  Or cool.  Or both, I can’t decide.

What else?  I went to IKEA with R today.  The thing about IKEA is.  I love it– cheap prices, cute design, lingonberry and Swedish meatballs, a well of inspiration, an abundance of small things.  And I hate it– you must go through the marketplace to get to the checkout, no ifs, ands, or buts.  It guarantees that by the end of any visit there, I will want food.  And that is exactly what happened.  You tricksters, you.  I have to give it to those Swedes, they know how to make the most of a design, from the tiny one egg frying pan that I have come to respect, to their entire showroom and warehouse experience.  The claustrophobic won’t like it, but bravo, nonetheless.

NARTH

http://www.narth.com

National Alliance for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality

Wow, places like this exist. Every once in awhile I go on a story rampage, that is, I start reading testimonies. Today it was on a somewhat dark subject, one that I am still afraid to sound clearly across a Facebook page for fear of being accused of hatred and bigotry. Instead, I shall use this blog as the appropriate medium. I read stories of men who struggled with what is today known as “homosexuality”, and also, from their words, recovered from their unwanted life and feeling. They lead from their perspectives whole, healed lives with their wives and children. Lives that they longed for but lives that seemed out of their reach.

I understand that I risk backlash with such a post, but as one who knows what it is to suffer internally, I want you to know that a hope is there, dear ones. There seems to be a lot of controversy and struggle there but there it is.

The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs

I should mention as an introduction, that despite the book’s title, Stephen is not advocating that you drop your medication as soon as you begin implementing this program, as “discontinuing an antidepressant without medical supervision can be dangerous.  Also, depression can be triggered by many common medical conditions– diabetes, sleep apnea, thyroid disorder, heart disease”, to name a few– so, as always, there are possibilities to consider.  With that said, here’s a brief rehash of the first chapter to those who may find this helpful.

I’m starting to read this book and so far I am enjoying the introduction quite a bit.  So much so, that I will summarize it here for anyone it may benefit.  Stephen’s hypothesis is that the rate of depression in the United States has increased, meaning people are more vulnerable to depression now, largely because of lifestyle.  Did you know only one group of Americans haven’t been hit by the depression epidemic?  That is the Amish, the ones still clinging to their eighteenth-century way of life.  He also cites how in third-world countries, the rate of depression is “often a fraction of that observed in the West” but that the “prevalence of depression has begun to go up in those countries where people are shifting from more traditional to more Americanized lifestyles”.  Also, he mentions that the “risk of depression has increased relentlessly in recent years across the industrialized world” and in contrast, “modern-day hunter-gatherer bands–such as the Kaluli people of the New Guinea highlands . . . despite living very hard lives . . . [are] largely immune to the plague of depressive illness.”  Stephen Ilardi’s basic thesis is that “the human body was never designed for the modern post-industrial environment”.  He asks the question, “How are hunter-gatherers able to weather life’s storms so effectively?”  He suspects that they are more likely than we are to experience “tragic events like the death of a child . . . — events that can serve as powerful triggers of depression”, but even with this, they remain resilient.  What has emerged from his study is this, “the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is profoundly antidepressant”, that is they “naturally wind up doing may things that keep them from getting depressed.  They do things that “change the brain more powerfully than any medication”.  Essentially, Stephen’s “six major protective lifestyle elements” are these:

– Dietary omega-3 fatty acids

– Engaging activity

– Physical exercise

– Sunlight exposure

– Social support

– Sleep

He calls his treatment program “TLC”, short for Therapeutic Lifestyle Change.  Sounds good to me.  That’s it for the introduction!

Reading

There are so many books and articles I want to read, mainly in the realm of business psychology (e.g. body language), or in the realm of biopsychology.  But I’m pretty tired, and it has been another day, another penny earned.

I went running today.  That was good, although I’m still feeling a pit in my stomach.  I wonder if perhaps regularity would make the difference.  Who knows?  I certainly don’t.

The problem with reading is, you get to a point where you’ve read too much and everything starts to sound conflicting and contradictory and you’re left right back where you started.  That, and there are so many poorly written, poorly researched, or poorly designed pieces out there.  And I just don’t have the heart to use the skills learned in Econ class to deduce whether a certain opinion based on such and such a study is legitimate or not.  Were there confounding variables?  Is the study even valid? What were the measurements used?  Can it be reproduced?  Was it reproduced?  Who did it?  How old is it?

Why can’t life be a little more systematic?  Imagine if all the text in the world had characteristics the way a photograph has certain measurements for the f-stop size, the shutter-speed, the quality.  You would hover over any piece of text and immediately there would be the characteristics, the who, the what, the why.  A definitive guide to the history of the piece, the research employed, the standards followed, the steps taken, the biases involved.  Ah, now wouldn’t that be utopia.  Even the Scriptures themselves have their own controversial passages and textual questions.  Why is this?  Should I still remember my questions, I must ask the Lord when I see Him.

“Have I … “

R has known me for years now.  R replies, “Idk”.  “No, really, are you sure you don’t know?” “Well..”  And the thoughts come untangled, confirming my own feeling.  “I KNOW RIGHT”  I reply, feeling validated. “.. I don’t know what has happened to me.”  I really do think I need to make an appointment to test something, but — yes, the dreaded “but” — it’s one of those items I’m procrastinating on because I feel like it will be a failure.  And I hate wasting time on something that will turn out to be a failure.  Or well, that I think will turn out to be a failure, to be accurate.  (Did you see that– cognitive distortion caught right there!)

Somehow, it seems like we always need something to blame.  I forget where I read about this.  Maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that, whose fault is it?  Especially in the workplace, some are immediately focused on where the blame lies, when perhaps the better question to ask ourselves is what can we do.

This past week, a man about fifty came and asked to sit with me and talk over lunch.  I had been trying to surreptitiously scarf down a sandwich, and I stared at him for a little while as I chewed.  He hesitated upon realizing that he had invaded my space (Hello, I am chewing and I’m sure it ain’t pretty), and upon seeing his hesitation, I felt I had nothing to lose so I obliged him.  What interesting conversation was I going to be having by myself anyway?  He said he had been reading a book Never Eat Alone.  I had been sitting alone.  I thought the title  interesting, and apparently it seems to be a book about networking and broadening one’s horizons by… never eating alone?  Something like that.   We proceeded to talk about where I came from, which obviously led to talking about the training, which led to his comments about his skepticism regarding religions that close people off from the outside world and how precious my 20s are.  I told him I didn’t regret the decision I made to go, but that I could also never know what would have happened if I had chose not to.  He said he was surprised I hadn’t tried to convert him yet.  So I told him in summary the mystery of human life, and no, he did not get saved, but there it was, in twenty five seconds.  It may have never been spoken so dryly before.  Point is, I really didn’t care to pretend enthusiasm in order to incite it in him, but I did feel obligated to at least tell him what it was that I used to speak to strangers on a regular basis about.  I feel like I had already encountered discouragement when he had responded to my initial comment about Bible school by saying he was a “spiritual” and not “religious” person and tried to lead an ethical, moral, life by himself.  To him, religion was a highly personal matter and thus he was not inclined to attend “church”.  Now this is a comment that I heard fairly regularly in Berkeley, and generally it leaves me at an impasse.  Our conversation nonetheless was quite pleasant, and I am fond of speaking with older folks who have seen much.  He did applaud my desire to go into speech language therapy, noting that the hours were flexible, the pay was good, and the work in demand.  Well there it is, very practical.  (Sigh.)  At the end of our conversation, he said, “I knew I would learn something new when I sat down at lunch today”.  I never got his name, and he didn’t get mine.  He did mention he had a son at Cal though, and I wonder who it is.  Oh, what do you do with a lukewarm gospel?  There must be a remedy.