Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Depression

Clay Bennett

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I have no words. The artwork and message of Clay Bennett speak for me today.

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Written by johnwhays

April 14, 2022 at 6:00 am

Painful Loss

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I knew Jennifer to be a precious, congenial, and amiable person, despite the experiences she lived through that drove her to multiple treatments for mental health concerns. Every time I saw her again after long absences, that remarkable dose of her true spark and desire to gain full command of her wellness glowed anew.

My idealistic goal of loving everyone on this earth is not always effortlessly achieved. Jenny was not one of the difficult ones. I loved her as easily as anyone.

It is devastating to have learned that she took her own life this week.

Those of us who knew and loved Jenny are experiencing the pain of losing the sound of her laughter, for good this time. It is we who must now reconcile the mental turmoil of the various roles we played in her life, of opportunities now vanished, hopes tarnished, with the burdens of sudden grief pressing down upon us.

As a person who has enjoyed great success in breaking free of the oppressive mental weight of depression, with all of its distortions of perception and its focus on imagined perils, I suffer deep heartbreak over instances where the interruption and amelioration of the affliction are unsuccessful.

There is debate about whether depression is curable or not, but there is general agreement that it is treatable. Good health requires maintenance, and being treated by professionals for depression can be a project of a lifetime.

In a way, good health habits are a self-directed form of treatment that keeps my depression at bay. It doesn’t feel focused on depression prevention for me because my healthy practices bring so many other rewards beyond just keeping my mind free from the dark dysfunctions that define the affliction.

Put simply, living healthy serves as a vaccination against the ills of depression for me.

It feels important to me to accentuate the time component of dealing with depression and frankly, all other aspects of a journey toward optimal health. I am profoundly moved by the length of time and variety of avenues Jenny navigated in her efforts toward health and well-being.

Good health does not happen in an instant as a result of a momentary desire to be healthy. It is a process that requires firm determination to stay on task for days that become weeks, then months, and ultimately, years. I often point out that a goal of getting healthy should be referenced against the number of months or years we allowed bad habits to weaken our muscles, add excess fat, compromise our livers, overtax our hearts, rob us of needed sleep, and ignore or misinterpret our full range of emotions.

May we always remember the best about loved ones who are no longer with us and seek inspiration from those fond memories for a determination to strive for our own optimal health in a journey that we renew every morning for the rest of our days.

Amen.

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For any occasion involving thoughts of suicide, free 24/7, confidential services are available:

call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741).

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Life Stories

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I have begun reading some of the stories Nathan Vass has written that describe scenes he has witnessed and exchanges he has had with others as a Metro bus driver in Seattle. From his words, I can immediately sense the love and respect he holds for the people he describes from his encounters. It swiftly pulls me toward loving them, too, more than a thousand miles and multiple years away from the origin of his stories.

Most of my stories lately end up describing the weather, my projects, our horses, or our pets. Occasionally, Cyndie’s or my embarrassing foibles provide fodder for a re-telling. It is hard for me to know if my tales are relative to something for those of you following, but I hope you sense the love I have for the range of subjects chronicled.

Over the holiday, I found myself on multiple occasions sharing descriptions of my experience with depression, the circumstances leading to a diagnosis, and the success of my subsequent treatment. The earnestness of my listeners flushed out more detail than I would normally venture to burden any one person with at a social gathering.

In one case, there was a surprised interest in the concept of depression being curable. I tend to consider myself “depression-free” with the adjunct of practicing a life-long antidote of daily thoughts and actions to maintain good health.

Writing something about my life every day is one component of my regimen, but I don’t write about my experience with depression every day. My stories are more of a reflection of not being depressed. That doesn’t make me forget about what it is like to struggle with depression.

I suppose that is one reason I feel love for the lives depicted in some of Nathan’s stories. When the situation he describes reveals symptoms of depression, I empathize.

There are moments of depression in almost every life at one time or another. We should all empathize.

Similar to the legend of feeding two wolves inside us, good vs. evil, and whichever we feed wins, I posit that bathing our brains in a chemical bath of positive, loving thoughts will produce much more desirable results than generating the chemicals of anxiety and negativity.

Consider this as you lay your head down to sleep for the night. What brain chemistry would you like to have generated as you are fading into dreamland?

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Written by johnwhays

January 4, 2022 at 7:00 am

Depth Perception

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Whether it’s a movie or a particular song, or sometimes a tragedy reported on the news, messages with impact can hit us in the gut. I watched a program last night that touched a personal nerve in its depiction of a powerful memory I have about my experience of depression. It involves the illogical behavior of pushing someone away when what you actually want is just the opposite.

I would shun connection when all I wanted was to be connected. It’s dysfunctional, to say the least.

The healthy alternative to that involves reaching an authenticity that brings behavior and desires into renewed alignment. Say what you mean, mean what you say, then act that way.

It is a function of becoming perceptive to the full depth of what we are truly feeling. Learning to be entirely honest with ourselves and observant enough to direct our thoughts toward a healthy interpretation of reality.

There is also a valuable component of becoming aware to avoid fabricating perceptions that lack any evidence of truth. Don’t make shit up.

I am happy to proclaim the incalculable reward of profound joy and blessed peace of mind available to a person who learns how to treat their depression and do away with dysfunctional thinking. I owe a debt of gratitude to the medical community that contributed to my recovery over two decades ago.

Yesterday, Cyndie discovered the depth of our chickens’ disdain for carrots after tossing them some mixed vegetable leftovers.

A little while later there wasn’t a single scrap of anything other than carrots remaining. I suppose the overnight scrounging critters will be happy to clean up after them.

We’ve noticed that the processed chicken feed we put out gets passed over by pretty much all the wild birds along with our chickens in favor of anything else we make available. The chickens LOVE the cracked corn and mealworm snacks, so there is never any of that left lying around, but leftover or spilled chicken feed even gets passed over by the overnight scavengers like raccoons, stray cats, possums, and a fox that have shown up on the trail cam.

I had no idea they would have such a discerning palate.

I should give them more credit for the depth of their perceptions.

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Virtual Hugs

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Flip the calendar. It’s another year. And here I sit, isolated from all but my wife. This doesn’t feel any different than the year that ended two days ago. Our cat, Pequenita just gave out a yowl of objection from the other room and Cyndie immediately responded with an admonishment to Delilah, sight unseen.

Once again, the dog was trying to play with the cat in the manner that dogs like playing. Pequenita has not once shown the least bit of interest in playing like dogs, including this morning. I wonder if I can teach Delilah to give virtual hugs.

Stuck in continued isolation for the unknown future, I am feeling inclined toward practicing increased focus on nurturing my metaphysical energies to travel the universe so I can mingle with the essences of all those whose vibrations resonate with mine. My heart loves others and I want to send that out in a virtual hug of your energies, all over the world.

But that is not all. I also want to send that love to those whose vibrations don’t resonate with mine. Like it or not, you just might get hugged.

Like the arms of my favorite tree, the reach is up and out in every direction, branching out in too many separate forks and arms to count.

We are all connected. Our thoughts and energies infectious. I don’t know if my love and wishes for peaceful feelings hold the power to eliminate anxieties and emotional pain in others, but maybe they can give a moment of pause. Provide a window of opportunity to choose a preferred alternative.

This may sound all too sanctimoniously philanthropic, but consider the possibility that there is a fair amount of selfish interest in my intentions.

I am seeking this path as a way of helping myself evade a tendency for doom and gloom. I don’t suffer so much from anxieties, but I tend toward a despondency of disheartened hopelessness.

I strive to love others as a means of avoiding a slide into my self-centered depression.

It’s what I can do from wherever I am, whenever I need. It’s choosing to make the world a better place no matter what virus or corruption or neglect is wreaking havoc at the time. It’s allowing myself to be happy in the face of misery.

In that, I see this as a win-win situation. Loving you helps me.

<virtually hugging you right now>

May you feel peace into this new year. May dogs and cats find a way to love each other, at a comfortable distance.

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Figuring Out

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The human race has made it this far. Maybe things will change for the better if enough people overcome fear, selfish greed, and exclusionary dogma to embrace love for all others equally. Think about it.

In the meantime, rational thinking must tolerate the rampant distribution of disinformation and innumerable groups of gullible people who allow themselves to believe any narrative that aligns with their versions of reality.

Long ago I became disturbed by ever-increasing reports of atrocities enacted by individuals who had themselves been abused. It was very obvious that those who had been harmed were eventually becoming offenders. Generations of this pattern were creating an expanding pyramid of misery.

This led me to visualize inverting that pyramid of dysfunction by breaking the patterns in some who could raise healthier children. With each generation, there would be fewer abusers and from the top down, the cone of an inverted dysfunction pyramid would be getting smaller with time. A reverse-pyramid scheme.

Of course, the opposite of that is the wonderful perspective of a pyramid of healthy loving people expanding with every generation.

I sought to break the chain of depression that I had inherited from my family tree and provide the knowledge and support for my children to recognize depression in themselves and those they love.

With the innovations of a world-wide internet and social media applications, the less rational portions of the human population have found a method to consolidate their numbers in frightening ways. I’m finding myself stumped for ideas to invert the pyramid of fear-based philosophies.

How much of my loving them will influence a change of thought? Why doesn’t rational logic override conspiratorial fears? How will non-religious spirituality ever compete with entrenched dogma of so many rival sects?

Will our dog and our cat ever figure out how to peaceably get along?

From history, we know that civilizations collapse. There is no assurance that there will come a day when all people eventually come together into a healthy, compassionate, inclusive, and loving society. Maybe if robots are programmed to take over our governance. Although, I saw a curious report that an AI (artificial intelligence) controlled camera mistook a referee’s bald head for a soccer ball and followed it for the remainder of a match.

Based on the last four years of backlash to the US having elected a person of color to the highest office for the eight years previous, our democracy doesn’t appear to be the beacon of hope it was once purported to be. Capitalism doesn’t deserve very high marks either, given the insane disparity of wealth distribution and environmental destruction it has achieved.

If the US survives the outcome of our election on Tuesday, we will have a lot of work ahead of us to overcome animosities and nurture more love for others than ever before. Freedom may ring, but the world will be a much better place if it rings with due respect for all others.

Let’s expand love to more people in the world than any generation before us ever achieved.

Amen.

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RS Interview 3

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Yes, there was more. The Relative Something interview with *The* John W. Hays meandered into the subjects of climate change and mental health. Are they related?…

RS: That’s enough of the namby-pamby rambling about pandemics and pets.

JWH: Uh-oh.

RS: What is it about your fascination with the weather every day?

JWH: You tell me?
I know, I know, I talk about the weather a lot. Doesn’t everybody? I mean, it SNOWED here yesterday! How can you avoid talking about that?

RS: Reading what you write, one might get the sense you are not a climate change denier.

JWH: [sarcastically] Well, it still gets really cold here and snows, so global warming might just be a hoax.
Some things in this world change gradually. I have been witnessing the constant increasing trend of fossil-fuel-emission-induced impact for my entire life. There were predictions made 30 years ago about the calamities the world is experiencing. Melting polar regions, rising seas, high-temperature records increasing, droughts, fires, floods, increasing intensity of storms. Honestly, simply seeing a graphic display of the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the industrial age compared to hundreds of thousands of years before should be enough for anyone to comprehend the reality. Human influence is changing the planet earth. What is the motivation to claim otherwise? At the highest levels of governance, corporations, and wealthy investors, I propose the motivation is financial. I can’t get my head around how anyone would be willing to risk our space ship for their greed to have more for themselves.

RS: Almost sounds like a mental health problem.

JWH: You brought it up. Dysfunctions of mental health could probably be viewed as the root cause of the majority of world problems. Wait… is stupidity classified as a mental illness? Sorry. Although, for me, education was a huge part of my success in dealing with my depression. My years of dysfunctional thinking were turned around in months after learning what was going on in my mind. Obviously, mental health issues are complex. In terms of addictions, we can educate someone about the harmful effects of smoking, but how many times has that knowledge been useless in getting someone to quit? Same challenge for every other mental affliction, I suppose. There are factors that go much deeper than just knowing. Maybe, more than simply having knowledge, there is an aspect of enlightenment involved.
Our thinking is intertwined with our physical chemistry. Our bodies are manufacturing and distributing mood-altering drugs. Our physical bodies are influenced by invisible forces around us. Moods are contagious. A well-educated person can be intelligent about a lot of subjects, yet be oblivious to how their anger is triggering chemicals in their body and how their angst is triggering people around them. That gap in perception can be narrowed by becoming more enlightened. More self-aware.
Increased self-awareness helps to open up the capacity to become more globally aware. An enlightened view would encompass equal cognizance of both self and others.
I don’t know if it’s obvious where I am going with this, but it has to do with love.

RS: Love seems like a worthy topic!

to be continued…

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Written by johnwhays

October 17, 2020 at 10:26 am

Powerful

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there is something to it
the energy
brain chemistry
powerful juju
but who’s in control?
who’s driving that bus?
because it’s not in control
and moving way too fast
so much momentum
ignores the breath
it’s flooding the circuits
alarm bells and whistles
betray their intent
when employed so flat out
too many days in a row
searching for relief
from the race
by racing
until
by some different magic
the solution just shows up
with little in the way of fanfare
the race can be over
if you can choose
to simply
stop

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Written by johnwhays

October 16, 2019 at 6:00 am

Unintentional Meditation

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The truth is, I just don’t know what to think. There is a simple solution for that, though. Sometimes I just don’t.

Think, that is. Maybe that is my version of unintentional meditation.

There are plenty of days that boil down to just putting one foot in front of the other. Some people do a better job of that than others. I believe there is an art to finding a way to carry on with a seemingly endless routine, regardless of having either a preconceived intention or none at all, on any given day.

Being something of a “both/and” person, I have no problem reconciling the odd combination of experiencing two opposing emotions simultaneously. More often than not, it is probably fair to say that I feel both happy and sad all at the same time.

Whatever gets you through the day is okay.

There is an interesting dynamic in the process of striving to become more healthy with time. Like peeling an onion, or zooming in for a closer look, new opportunities for improvement keep coming into view as progress is achieved. It’s as if someone keeps moving the goal line of optimal health farther away as I approach.

Progress begets progress, and so in one aspect, advances –both mental and physical– seem to come a little easier with time. But, there is also a change in the rate of improvement over time which makes it harder to perceive ongoing gains being achieved.

Of course, I have chosen love as my secret –or not so secret– weapon of choice for solving life challenges. I need to remind myself to love myself and send love to others all along the way. It helps to sooth angst over plateauing progress and energize doldrums that might begin to weigh me down.

The biggest success I hope to celebrate someday in my life will be a time when I discover that I am beaming that self-love and love for others without needing to think about it.

Wouldn’t that be a fine ambiance in which to live?

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Hippocampal Neurogenesis

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Secret weapons. I have two of them. One is love. Okay, that one’s not so secret. The other one is my new favorite phrase: hippocampal neurogenesis. Isn’t that just the best? It’s fun to say and it describes the mental health benefits available from exercising.

You can read about the details in this March 2018 Psychology Today article, “How Your Mental Health Reaps the Benefits of Exercise,” by Sarah Gingell, Ph.D. 

I just discovered a link to the article earlier this week, and the marvel of new growth of neurons in the hippocampus has me giddy over this hidden benefit of exercising. In particular, the insights of these three paragraphs:

Evidence is accumulating that many mental health conditions are associated with reduced neurogenesis in the hippocampus. The evidence is particularly strong for depression. Interestingly, many anti-depressants — that were once thought to work through their effects on the serotonin system — are now known to increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

What does this all mean? Theories suggest that newborn hippocampal neurons are likely to be particularly important for storing new memories and keeping old and new memories separate and distinct. Thus, neurogenesis allows a healthy level of flexibility in the use of existing memories, and in the flexible processing of new information.

Much mental ill health is characterized by a cognitive inflexibility that keeps us repeating unhelpful behaviors, restricts our ability to process or even acknowledge new information, and reduces our ability to use what we already know to see new solutions or to change. It is therefore plausible that exercise leads to better mental health in general, through its effects on systems that increase the capacity for mental flexibility.

Exercise increases blood flow to our brains, bringing oxygen and nutrients to create new neurons in the hippocampus. As a result, we are rewarded with increased ability to process new information, and deal with change because of increased mental flexibility.

That means a lot to me because I can look back at some of the struggles I dealt with under the weight of depression and vividly recognize a particular inflexibility of my thinking, as well as an aversion to the stresses of change.

Today, I am all about hippocampal neurogenesis. You might say, it’s my healthy drug of choice.

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