Saturday, January 19, 2013

Making my brain work better

Over a year ago, I wrote an entry that I entitled "Not Depressed Enough to be Depression".  What I really liked about it was the response that I got.  A couple people, both on my blog here and on Facebook, told me that they could relate to what was going on.  I think that it was one of the few entries where I ever really got personal - instead of writing about my thoughts on beer, comics, religion, etc., I was writing about me and what was going on in my head.  While I figured it would have been a bit of a form of therapy to write that stuff down, I guess the real therapy was in knowing that I wasn't alone.  I tried the same thing with "Got Guilt?  Kill a Hydra!" but I think that my mythological reference might have gotten lost on some people.

I've been thinking for the past few weeks that I should follow up on what I wrote because I have some good news - I've been feeling really good lately.  Oh, sure, there was a moment of depression when it looked like Prop 30 wasn't going to pass in California, but I think that even in that awful scenario I'd find a way to bring my mood back up to what it is now.

Perhaps the biggest sign is that I've been sleeping really well.  One problem that I'd often have is that I'd fall asleep quickly enough, but then I'd wake up in the middle of the night with my mind spinning on something.  This isn't happening anymore.  I guess the trick that I learned is that much of my sleeping experience depends on the thoughts that are going on in my head when I go to bed.  This became really obvious when I'd either read or watch The Walking Dead right before retiring for the evening.  It was inevitable that I'd have bad dreams about zombies.  So, what did I start doing instead?  I'd read something light - oftentimes some Uncle Scrooge Stories by Carl Barks.  That really did the trick.  Now, not everybody has this exact same situation, or a collection of Uncle Scrooge stories handy, but the basic principle is the same - go to bed with good thoughts.

However, I have an even better control over it lately.  When I have some negative thoughts, I just push them out.  This is easier said than done.  I remember telling my therapist that I wished that I could just shut my brain off and stop thinking about things.  She told me that I had to just keep working at re-focusing my mind.  It's not that I didn't believe her, but I resigned myself to the notion that this was simply the reality that I was dealing with - I had a brain that went places that I didn't want it to go.

But like most long-term solutions, it takes a bit of time for it to finally work.  Does my brain still start to dwell on things that drive me nuts?  Sure, it definitely goes there.  However, now I'm able to push it out of my head with just a little bit of effort.  It's not even so much that I have such excellent control, but I'm just TIRED of thinking about things that bother me.  It's like I get annoyed with the fact that those thoughts are even there because I finally understand that dwelling on them solves nothing.  Of course, I had always understood that on a conscious level, but it's like my subconscious level finally understands as well.

I'm not sure what other factors have played a part in all of this.  I think that much of it has to do with the fact that my wife and I finally moved out of our house, where we were ridiculously underwater - literally, if literally means figuratively, which it doesn't, so we weren't.  The stress of that situation finally being gone is a big plus.  Also, I seem to have adjusted to condo life.  The sheer fact that I don't have lots of yardwork is fantastic.  Would it be nice if it was a little bit bigger?  Yeah, but do you know what I'm also tired of?  Not being satisfied with what I have.

Part of me thinks that being a dad has adjusted my outlook a bit.  It's possible that I just don't have as much time for my brain to go wandering off places.  I pick up Logan right after work, and then I take him and the dog on a walk once we get home.  Then it's time for dinner and a bath (wifey usually does the bath) and then bedtime for him.  After that, I'm pooped.  Maybe it's that, but maybe some sort of instinct has kicked in where my brain simply won't let me go off into a dark cloud.

Part of it too is that at 39, I'm probably closer to death than I am to my birth.  Yeah, that sounds depressing, but it isn't to me.  I have no plans to kick off anytime soon, and I hope that at the very least, I grow old enough to see Logan become a man.  But as for death itself, I have no fear of it.  (I do fear dying though - at least, a painful experience.  Once it gets here though, I'm fine with it.)  And unlike the Egyptian Pharaohs, I realize that I can't take stuff with me, good or bad.  Perhaps some people might think it's morbid, but often I get rid of those negative thoughts by just thinking as to how much it will all matter when I'm dead.  It may sound strange, but it cheers me up.

All of these unimportant things that I stress over won't matter, and the only thing that will matter is that I've left this world in a slightly better place, as that will no doubt be my final thought.  While I certainly don't think that I'm a Martin Luther King or somebody along those lines, I think that I've done all right.  Here's hoping that I'll be around plenty long enough to pad the resume some more.

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