Monday, September 26, 2016

It's not binary


Where I first started thinking about the word "binary", was related to its use in issues of gender and sexuality, where non-binary is used to express not fitting within the standard easy definitions. In its more mathematical use, binary is 1 or 0. Yes or No. The switch is on or off.

Some people get very uncomfortable with anything beyond that, wishing everything fit neatly into simple boxes, but life has a way of being more complex, with multiple interactions and variations, and nuances. Truthfully the difficulty is often more with the reaction than with the complexity itself. Is it really so terrible that there can be more than two answers?

Keeping that in mind, and returning to depression, I have dealt with people who will tell you that depression is strictly chemical, and medication is the only answer. These have primarily been young girls dealing with depression, and they have their reasons for seeing it this way.

However, I also know someone who said pretty firmly that the only real cure for depression is therapy, and medication is just something that can help you as you reach healing through therapeutic means.

So, as long as we are being anecdotal, let me throw out a few more. I have one friend who has a tendency toward depression, especially in winter as it is combined with Seasonal Affective Disorder. He still was able to manage it without medication until a really difficult divorce. It took him about three years to get back to where he didn't need the medication anymore.

During that time, there were people who told him he should be able to manage without the medication - that he should be using faith and prayer to overcome his difficulties. I still get mad thinking about the ignorance involved, and the casual cruelty that kind of ignorance makes possible.

I have another friend who was dealing with depression as a result of childhood sexual abuse. Medication did not help her; it only made her feel numb. This was a while back, and that was a common complaint for a lot of patients back then. I think medication has improved, but what she took away from that was that the problem was not her brain chemistry. She would have to heal from her experience and manage the after-effects in non-chemical ways.

When the young girls cling tightly to the chemistry-only definition, I know why they are doing it. They know that there is something chemically wrong that needs help, and yet they are constantly being told to get over it or suck it up or to be stronger. Their understanding of depression becomes part of their defense of their selves, and their right to have their problems recognized and treated.

What I also know is that they often have high Adverse Childhood Experience scores. When they were supposed to be developing their strength and resilience they were having supports kicked away and wounds inflicted that not only make emotional resilience harder but pose threats to their long-term physical health. So yes, there could be some emotional factors there, where counseling might be helpful, or workshops or lots of other things, but that is in no way any justification for putting them further down and calling them weak.

I do not doubt that the one counterexample needs talking therapy, based on his childhood experiences and his ways of dealing with things now; that doesn't mean it's the only way.

Another friend who was sexually abused had a specific issue with normal arousal causing feelings of disgust with herself, because of the associations with abuse. Yoga was helpful to her for that, giving her a different way of approaching her mind-body connection. I am glad that helped her. That does not mean that you can tell any abuse victim to just do yoga.

I am thinking of one more friend who was abused as a child. She went through therapy then, and was doing well, and then in her early twenties, in a different location and life situation, some reminders came up, and triggered her, putting her mentally in a bad place.

She needed to go back to therapy. It wasn't even for that long, but she needed to check back in, and have someone help her take another look.

There are a lot of different ways that mental health can work or not work. It is foolish of us to try and oversimplify it, or to think that we know better than someone else what will help them heal or cope. It is horrible that so often we respond with arrogance instead of compassion. That helps no one.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Band Review: Western Education


Western Education has been a breath of fresh air.

The indie rock band from Lowell, Massachusetts is achingly earnest. This is helped by the pleading inflections that seem to come naturally to singer Greg Alexandropoulos's voice, but that is not the only factor. The instruments do unusual things. Sometimes it reminds me of jangle, sometimes slack-key guitar, but it can give a magical tone to the songs. This can be heard especially well on "Loyal Satellite".

"Peace" is a truly beautiful song, with lyrics that make you think. "Geneva" is a departure from most of their songs in tone, and yet it still seems to fit."Young Love" is their most triumphant.

Overall, this was just really good listening. I'm glad they put themselves on my radar.

Recommended.




Thursday, September 22, 2016

Band Review: Pink Panda


I had some difficulty when I started listening to Pink Panda, not in terms of finding music, but figuring out what was them. There were remixes of other artists' songs and guests, and a whole section that really only seemed to be Kim Porter. Even the main picture worried me. It was of three people wearing panda masks who seem to be male, but the earliest songs I was listening too were female singers. I wasn't sure I was actually reviewing the intended band. Even if I was, I didn't feel like I was getting a handle on the band.

Once I started watching their music videos, things started to make sense. The lack of humanization that I saw in the first picture was magnified. It wasn't necessarily bad; I thought the video for "Argon" was pretty cool.

It makes more sense when looking at their profile. They list themselves as Producers/Remixers & DJs. They aren't really a band in the traditional sense. However, if you look at dance music, and house and club mixes, there is some tradition. Possibly the natural audience for Pink Panda would be fans of Gorillaz and Teddybears.

There is nothing wrong with any of the music. It could fit into clubbing or driving or just working
with music in the background. My favorite track was probably "Make a Move" which is distinctly different from "Make Your Move". However, I don't emotionally connect to it.

That is an important factor for me, but I am also not really into club music and there are people who are. They are probably getting different things from it.

It's always good to remember there are lots of different ways to make music.





Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tarnished silver linings


This phase of my life has me on edge a lot. I am worse at my compulsive behaviors, like computer games and picking at things. I might lose my temper in a semi-calculated way, like the incident Saturday night. I am trying to focus on things and behaviors that distance me from the edge, but there is one thing that I imagine could make me go off on a person. It's a silly, minor thing, but it will help me get into the next blogging phase, where I will be looking at social and political issues again (did you know there's an election coming?), so we're going to discuss it.

I have in my mind this idea of someone tentatively asking me "Do you think you might be depressed?", and me responding loudly "Of course I'm depressed! What kind of a stupid question is that? How would I not be?"

The weird thing is I state the obvious all the time, at least for humorous effect, but I feel like it would bug me.

The thing is, there doesn't seem to be a point in identifying it. My brain chemistry is functioning normally. I haven't finished the hormone book yet, but they seem pretty normal too. I just have some long-term stressful situations in my life that are bringing me down. I have to manage it on that level.

The post Monday will focus more on defining depression, because there are people who would not consider this to be depression in the absence of a brain chemistry issue, but we'll get there. For now I just want to go over two things that don't help.

I did have a silver lining. A few months ago, Mom started really enjoying her food more. This was gratifying in multiple ways. She was complimenting my cooking a lot, even though I wasn't really doing anything different. Even a decision to have raw baby carrots with the meal - which is not cooking, per se - was greatly appreciated. She thought they were better than candy. I had read that often with the elderly they start having poor appetites and being picky, where you may not be able to get them to eat a balanced diet, so it was a pleasant surprise.

That has ended. It's not just that there are no more exclamations, but there is a resistance to drinking enough and to eating fruits and vegetables. I believe it is because she worries about having to go to the bathroom too much, because she doesn't feel at home. However, shortly after that shift she also started complaining about her stomach gurgling and her not feeling well, and I think it's connected. I have tried talking with her about it, but turning down the fruit or beverage in that moment doesn't feel like a new habit, it feels like that one time. I know that she hasn't eaten her daily apple for several days now, but she doesn't believe it. (She does still eat her daily oatmeal, for which I am grateful.)

I am working on ways of getting around that, but that was a disappointment. It was something that made things harder, and reminded me that there will be more changes, probably not for the better.

The other thing that gets pointed out as fortunate is my unemployment, because I can be here with her. Yes, but it is also a depressing element. I am barely squeaking by on unemployment, and it will not last forever. I feel guilty spending money on anything fun, and those are on pretty minor things. There's not a lot to look forward to.

In addition, to keep the employment going, you have to keep applying for jobs. That also makes sense, because of the whole having money thing, but job searching is demoralizing enough on its own. I keep getting rejection messages, where they went with someone who was better qualified or a better fit, but I would have been a great fit for a lot of them. And if there is some element of relief because I can still be here, there are still feelings of insecurity and worthlessness and fear.

I have been in worse mental states than this, but based on energy, motivation, and ideation, I feel comfortable saying I am depressed. I am also comfortable in feeling that time management, self-care, and stress relief practices are necessary in my case, and that SSRIs and therapy aren't (without ruling out the possibility of them being helpful).

It is possible that I resent my life being in its current state, or just that there is enough other energy being expended that I have a shorter fuse, but I do not think that I would respond to the general question well. And maybe that would be someone pussyfooting around when I only have time to get straight to the point, or maybe it would be if someone thought they were being profound with the really obvious.

It just feels like a sensitive issue.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Setting expectations


I sent a firm e-mail to all three of my sisters today.

They have a habit of calling during the day, and asking me how Mom is. There is no good answer for these calls.

Often I could say about normal, which currently means that she doesn't know that she lives here, and at some point she may ask to go home and get mad at me. If you call before that happens it seems good, or after that happens it seems bad, but really it is all kind of the same. Her moods can change suddenly.

One thing that can wreck a mood is feeling disrespected or infantilized. Oddly, being talked about can put her there. Sure, she doesn't hear what they're asking, and I try and give non-specific answers, but that just leads to them asking more questions, and she knows. She has some tendency toward paranoia now anyway, and she knows. So at the end of the phone call she may ask me about it and be mad, or she may not ask me about it but still be mad. No thank you.

I had already said that this was not good, and they should stop doing that, but it didn't really sink in. I started the message this way:

"This is to let everyone know that whenever you ask me how Mom is doing on a phone call, I am going to say 'Bye now' and hang up."

I haven't gotten any pushback from the message yet, but I didn't send it that long ago. (Long day today.) I suspect the real irritation will happen after the first time someone calls and learns I was not kidding.

Part of this journey has been remembering - and often learning the hard way - that I need to take care of myself. which means paying attention to my needs. Part of that is also communicating my needs. My family has their moments when they are better and worse at supporting me, but they have never shown any psychic abilities whatsoever.

Also, sometimes they don't listen the first time. Delivering the message via a different method, and having an enforcement plan, may be necessary.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Therapeutic anger


My mother had a hard recovery from her first knee surgery. It was a really bad knee, so the surgery took a long time, leaving her under the anesthesia for a long time. She didn't just bounce back from that. Then it was winter, and she was always cold, and the second knee hadn't been done yet, so there was still a lot of pain there.

All of that was harder on her. The primary impact on me, besides general worry, was that she was not motivated to do her exercises. They were important for her recovery, but she did not sufficiently care.

I knew this was bad for her, and I tried lots of positive reinforcement, but eventually what worked was belittling and shaming her.

I let myself lose my temper at her and tell her that she was being - I don't remember my exact words, but stubborn and stupid probably came up. I didn't go so far as yelling, but I raised my voice at her and stormed off, and she immediately started doing her exercises. She was going to show me.

I felt like that would happen, which is why I let myself lose my temper with her. It was genuinely strategic, but the frustration was genuine too. I was glad it worked, but I wasn't exactly proud of myself either. I was mean to my mother. It accomplished the intended goal, but that the feelings were real was not something I could like.

I am entering that territory again.

This is not turning into a dementia blog, but it is coming up a lot lately, because I am feeling the impact more lately. That's probably not going away. I am currently the primary caregiver, so I deal with everything, and honestly, Mom is worse with me. I suspect this is because regardless of what she remembers or doesn't remember, she still has a greater trust for me, making it safer to act out. That has been hard, and last night I yelled at her.

It was like the other time in that it felt necessary, and because the feelings were real. It was different in that I wasn't sure what I was trying to achieve. When I wanted her to do her exercises, success was pretty obvious. For this, I didn't know.

I mean, I know that the problem was that she was mad that we weren't letting her go home, and we were killing her and driving her crazy and being dishonest with her, and I didn't want that. After yelling, what I got was hedging at first, then she went for a ride with one of my sisters for a while, and then she got really confused and devastated and cried and apologized to me.

I know at one point there was a moment of clarity where she saw that she had been wrong: this was home and we were not lying to her and her mind was confusing her. I also know that these moments of clarity devastate her, and they don't last. Maybe it's good that they don't last because they are so devastating, but if the clarity would last, it wouldn't have to be.

The harsh words last night don't seem to have harmed her, maybe they even helped in the moment. I still don't feel good about it. I guess I was pretty devastated too; I cried a lot while she was out for the ride. Also, I know that the rest of the family is going to take cues from me, and I don't trust some of them to use getting mad as a strategy.

I don't really have a strategy. I have thoughts sometimes about things to try and do, but the ground keeps shifting beneath us. A lot of things that seem like they could help don't, once tried. And sometimes, maybe the thing that seems like a horrible idea if you can even call it an idea, because there wasn't a lot of thought that went into it, maybe that can be okay.

I am adjusting.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Band Review: Chin up, Kid


Chin Up Kid is a pop punk band from Indianapolis.

They list themselves as "Good ole' Indiana easycore". While it's certainly true that they are not hardcore, the guitars and percussion do drive and there is a good strength to the music. It does come off as more plaintive than aggro (this is most true on "Letters"), but it works on that level.

They reminded me most of Atlantic Aftermath, which is probably not a useful reference point. I think fans of Direct Hit! could enjoy them.