Tag Archives: despair

Our Lives: the Microcosm vs the Macrocosm

The world revolves on a grand scale and on a small or microcosmic scale. The macrocosm can be something as enormous as the galaxy or the universe. But within the environs of the earth it comes down to a country’s personality. It is also earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes. It is war, and pandemic diseases. As well it is the nature of both humankind as a whole and the planet in its entirety. On this grand scale we see the war in Libya, the overturning of the government in Egypt, the rising price of gas, heating, food, etc., the many deaths from Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the political temperament of France or Tunisia, the cholera in Haiti, the religious fervor in Afghanistan or the human rights issues of China.

The macrocosm can be scary and all-encompassing. It is the onslaught of the human condition. It can also be beautiful: the ocean, the skies above, a forest, the many species that blanket the earth. It is humanity in all its great creativity, the collective consciousness, the evolution of our kind.

But when we look at the world as a whole we see doom and despair. We see death and cataclysms and everything looks like it’s spiraling down the hole. There are rapists and murderers and pedophiles, drug dealers and car accidents, disease and poverty, wars and subjugation. The news dwells on the negative and not the uplifting. It’s one reason I don’t read newspapers or watch TV; to lessen the onslaught to my sensibilities. My soul weeps when all I see is the tragedy of life and ever impending doom.

But…and this is a big emphasis on a small word…but when I look at the microcosm I see my neighbor who will rescue my cat, the friends who push my car through the snow, the person who holds the door open for me, the intimacy and love of friends and family. I smell a flower, watch a tree slowly unfurl its leaves and blooms, pet a cat, plant a flower, nod to a fellow shopper, go to a party, have a drink with friends and listen to their trials and tribulations, and relate to people every day. That’s my world.

We have to remember this  to achieve some balance in life. To look only at the macrocosm means the world is a despairing place bereft of good and beauty. To look only at the microcosm can mean your problems seem to be mountains or you are ignorant of the world around you. I remember the microcosm daily so that my spirit lifts and I have hope and joy. What matters most are the relationships we form with the people around us, and our environment. What is greatest is sharing love and joy. It is the only way to exist and stay sane in a world filled with chaos. Here’s to the intimate moments in the microcosm.

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Perspectives on the World

The world is an amazing complex sphere. None of us can truly understand the scope of all that it encompasses nor be knowledgeable in all ares. We can fathom some of it but are our views accurate?

I long ago stopped watching TV or even reading newspapers. To this day I have never seen a picture of the twin towers falling. I didn’t need to. The horror was all too real without that. And that is just one reason why I don’t watch TV–the horror of it is too much. These days we have 24-7 news and programming and multiple channels. You can catch the news on a particular subject at any time and if it’s something big, like Michael Jackson’s death, the predators start circling immediately with “in-depth” commentary on his life, his fashion, his eccentricities, his doctors, his drugs, his family, his kids, his debts, his fortune, etc. On and on, with huge drama in every commentator’s voice; melodrama one could say. (I did catch a little bit while at my neighbor’s)

That’s one example but news is never (or rarely) about the good stuff. The adage goes, No news is good news, and that can mean that if you don’t hear anything that’s good news and of course, what sells papers or draws audience viewing is the bad news. The disasters, the accidents, the murders and rapes, the lost children, the poverty, the wars, the despotic regimes, etc.

And what does this do? It weighs us down with darkness and despair, with loss of faith in humankind, with  fatalism. When I watched this stuff, the news, the same plane disaster would be played out several times a day with graphic depictions of the accident. I wept and felt terrible, and grew depressed, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t have compassion for anyone hit with hard circumstances. We should, but we can also be bludgeon into insensitivity with a constant overload of the bad and the tragic.

My outlook would start to cloud and I thought as the world on an downward spiral into eternal darkness. We didn’t need religious myths, we had our hell now. But then I stopped and thought. Were my coworkers, my friends, my family despots, murderers, rapists? Were they evil and uncaring? No. Were they uncaring? No.

And that was just the people I know. On the macrocosm of the world and world events, there are horrors beyond belief. On the microcosm are individual organisms, you and me. Each person can be good or bad but the majority are caring people, who follow the law, who try to help out, who want to believe in the goodness of their fellow human. I try to remember this when I look at the likes of Mugabe, Ayatollah Khomeini, Idi Amin, Osama bin Laden, Willie Picton, Paul Bernardo, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. that they are the small percentage, the very few.

Their crimes are so vile that they make the headlines. Your friend that picks you up when your car breaks down on the highway, the father who comforts his child, the person who donates to organizations where money will help the underprivileged, we don’t hear about those people, except once in a while. Only if it’s a celebrity do we hear of charitable acts.

And so we get a skewed outlook of our world. Yes, one war can wipe out thousands or millions and is terrible and on the macrocosmic scale still speaks of a problem for human kind in general. As a whole homo sapiens need to strive harder to be better. Yet we must remember the good that people do for it is these small acts that give us hope and faith.

Even with only getting my news through radio (I do stay informed) it is still skewed towards the tragic. But I try very hard to remember the good and that I would have been in more dire straights were it not for the support of friends and family and yes, at times strangers. Give a little and you can receive a lot.

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Suicide and Depression

Someone I had known for a long time, but did not know well (we were acquaintances, sometimes a the same parties and events) killed himself a week ago. I was surprised as he just didn’t seem the type. Someone said, how selfish of him. Someone else said, that was the choice he made. I’ve written once already about my bouts with depression but this is more general, on how to recognize some factors.

Although he had been a man who could anger many people, who could be abrasive at times, I felt a bit bothered by these comments. Those who knew him better said he had tried to kill himself before but those had been more a cry for help. He had struggled for a long time. It seems he had been on meds but had gone off of them several months before because he couldn’t afford them. I’ve also recently heard he may have suffered a head injury. Probably all of these things contributed to his suicide.

Having suffered deep and enervating depression in the past, I found I have an added perspective; sadness, compassion and fear. I was sad that he felt so alone that he couldn’t ask for help. But this is the way we are in our society. We are expected to do our grieving at a funeral and then act normal from that point on. People don’t grieve in a single day; they grieve over a year or years. Likewise, we are expected, or feel it is expected of us, to not share our bad or sad or woeful emotions. People will say we’re wallowing, that we’re no fun to be around, that we’re self-centered. All of these things may be true but friendships should never be about only the bright sunshiny moments. If they are, they’re not true friendships. As I know from experience, if you try to talk to a person about your feelings, that you think they don’t care, that maybe there is something wrong with your personality, then you are as likely to be greeted in anger, or dismissed, or in silence or not talked to again. People will often invalidate the feelings of their friends without intending to. So a depressed person is not likely to ask for help because they don’t think they’ll get it or no one cares. It’s seen a weak, as needy, as less than what a person should be in this society.

I felt compassion because I have an idea of what this man went through. I felt for the pain he must have suffered. In my deepest darkest year of depression I suffered many things and not all were just thoughts. Depression can cause a person to lose their coping mechanisms. Answering the phone or a simple question can be too much, throwing one into a state of anxiety or anger because they can’t remember. Memory can be affected in different ways. Physical ailments can appear or persist mysteriously. My elbow began to hurt and no amount of physio was curing it. People can get bronchial colds that remain for weeks or months.

When a person is depressed the world becomes black. I have felt trapped, unable to see an end to the situation I was in. If there are stresses in a person’s life (and who doesnt’ have them) such as financial, career, family, love, health, etc. these can all be exacerbated. If something is not going well, it will seem there is no way out, no change in sight, no way to get help. It seems hopeless. Because, as I mentioned above, you’re afraid to ask for help or to lose what friends you have, you see your world as shrinking. There is less light, less joy, fewer friends, and then boredom, despair and futility set in.

People on the outside might just think a person is being difficult, or cranky, or wallowing, or self-pitying or elusive or snobbish. They dismiss or ignore and get angry. This is why I also felt fear, because I have been there and I know how isolated one can feel. We cannot always be vigilant of our friends and family but we can try to be more aware, to recognize the signs when they don’t. There are other signs and not all people exhibit all the same ones. But when one person said, this is the choice he made, remember it wasn’t a choice made with all the options. Depression hides many options and a choice made in such a state is one made when you’re not in your right mind. His selfish choice of suicide might have been seen as his only choice, that he would put his family through less pain if he was out of the picture. He was not seeing clearly.

Because the only thing I wasn’t when clinically depressed was suicidal, it bothered me when more recently I felt I was so lonely I should just die. That was a telltale sign, even to me. I write this to hopefully help others save their friends and family from a health problem that is still greatly misunderstood. Don’t be so quick to judge against a person’s behaviors but look to see if there is a pattern or persistence of such attitudes. Depressed people won’t always get help even if you suggest it. Sometimes it takes constant attention and if you haven’t heard from someone in a while, call them. Don’t wait. Some people are depressed for years but the black abyss of clinical depression is a dangerous place where fear and hopelessness rule.

And if a depressed person comes to you with their concerns, no matter how lopsided, with feelings that you ignored them or don’t care, don’t dismiss them. Don’t say, oh you’ve done this before and walk away. Sometimes the fears are valid and sometimes not. But if you dismiss a depressed person who is still trying to reach out and understand, then you validate their fears and lead them closer to the edge of no return.

Mental health disorders are hard for many people to grasp because the person doesn’t look physically ill in any way. We find it scary or hard to understand how something could change a person’s attitude or personality. But everything in the human body can be affected by an illness and depression is an insidious one. I wasn’t close enough to help this man and it could be that everyone was aware. A person serious about suicide is a lot harder to stop. But in many cases, getting a person to open up and talk about their feelings could be the first step of bringing light back to their lives.

Here is a list of some of the symptoms of depression:
* Persistently sad, anxious, angry, irritable, or “empty” mood
* Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
* Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
* Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
* Decreased appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and/or weight gain
* Fatigue, decreased energy, being “slowed down”
* Crying spells
* Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
* Restlessness, irritability
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
* Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and/or chronic pain

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Depression: The Invisible Battle

In the last decade there have been more books on depression and people talking openly. Although I think there can be a point of over-saturation, we’re not there yet and more dialogue on depression will people help recognize and understand it better. There are still too many people who live under the black cloud of despair or more tragically, kill themselves out of depression.

I speak not from an outsider’s point of view but from the intimate perspective of having suffered mild depression to full-blown clinical depression. The first time was probably in my twenties when my boyfriend of three years and I broke up. I moved to Vancouver and lived for another three years in a somewhat different personality. It was a bit kamikaze, reckless, unhappy and angry. I ended up going to my doctor who sent me to a psychiatrist. He determined that I was working my way out of the depression by that point and didn’t put me on meds. That’s pretty rare for psychiatrists who are married to the pharma industry. Psychologists aren’t covered in Canada’s medicare but psychiatrists are.

Perhaps I dipped into depression a few times after that but it was when I was dealing with my eating disorder that I was first put on anti-depressants. I can’t say they changed my mood or state of mind but eventually it seems my brain chemistry balanced out and I stopped the binging and quit the meds.

In 2001 I had gone through a few things and had a boyfriend, but I was pretty poor and nothing seemed to be going right for me, My health was deteriorating, partly caused by a repetitive stress injury in the movie industry and now I was poor. Everything built up. I was freelancing but not full time so I’d go and work, then come home and crawl into bed. I forced myself to eat a bowl of soup a day. I couldn’t deal with anything: answering the phone, changing a doctor’s appointment, coming up with answers to questions. I cocooned for months. And then September 11th happened and that added to the fear and gloom. My elbow was also hurting and no amount of physiotherapy was helping. After many sessions the physiotherapist said she couldn’t help anymore.

I went to my doctor with this symptom and she mentioned depression. I didn’t want to see a psychiatrist because I don’t think they do much (the last one when I had the eating disorder, didn’t) and I didn’t want to go on anti-depressants because they’re hard on teeth and can cause increased cavities (less salivation occurs and bacteria builds up). I also argued that I had reasons to be depressed and listed them. My doctor said, true you can be depressed and have good reasons but it’s not about the reasons but how you cope. In essence, I wasn’t coping very well at all.

My doctor gave me a questionnaire to fill out and bring back. Of all the questions the only one I didn’t have a dire answer to was the one about suicide. I’ve never been suicidal, not even when depressed. My doctor took one look at my answers and said, “You’re going on medication.” So I did and luckily she got me a compassionate prescription, which is free through the pharmaceutical companies because there was no way I could afford it and I would have stopped buying them, if I had to pay.

Since that time I try to gauge where I’m at, watch my moods and feelings. But depression is a tricky thing. It doesn’t always manifest the same way every time. Sometimes you can function but you can’t eat. Sometimes you’re just in physical pain that won’t go away. Sometimes you are fine during the day and plummet every evening. Sometimes you can’t eat, or you eat too much, can’t sleep or sleep too much. For me, it’s never been quite the same so it gets hard to know for sure.

I sometimes have to look back over a period of a year and see if I have shifted much. I try to catch it before it gets as bad as 2001. I don’t like being in that space and everything is far too dark. I tend not to read or watch the news because the concentration and the repetition of the bad and horrid gets to me. Even the radio can be too much but I do like to know what’s going on in the world.

Depression is not a physical ailment but it can become one. It can make people as sick as any disease and kill them. Understanding what a person may be going through will help people heal. Calling them crazy and whacked, which we all do, may describe their current state but it won’t help them get better. Depression is a disease with varying symptoms, and understanding will help those who have it and those who have to be around it.

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