March 2017

4 Signs Your Loved One May Be Hiding Depression (and What You Can Do to Help)

Is someone you love stuck in a funk, or suffering from a more serious and dangerous emotional pain? If they were, would you know?

Hi. I have crippling depression. It may not be obvious, but if you observe carefully, you may notice that something seems off.

I’m not a therapist — I can barely keep a cactus alive — but I know some of the common tricks that people like me use to mask our emotions. Depression flattens the personality, and depressed folks tend to have a lot in common. If you notice these behaviors in someone you care for, it may be time to check in and see if something is wrong.

They drop out of the conversation

I signed out of Facebook five years ago and never came back.

When I vanished from Facebook, I lost touch with dozens of friends, acquaintances, and people I met once at a bar in 2008. A lot of my closer friends and relatives lost track of my activities. A lot of them didn’t know I got married three years ago, or that I almost died in 2014 and stopped drinking so I wouldn’t. They still don’t, because I’ve made no effort to reach out to them. Most of them probably just stopped thinking about me.

Long before I quit, I had begun to view my friendships as a meaningless collection of trading cards. Looking at other people’s highlight reels made me feel worse about my own unedited raw feed and how dark it had gotten.

This wasn’t an indictment of my friends, or friendship, or Facebook. It was my own frustration with myself. I knew I was headed for a breakdown, and I preferred to have it alone.

If someone close to you cancels accounts, or stop responding to your texts and emails, it may be a sign that they’re in anguish. When I shuffled off Facebook, a few people reached out to me through more traditional channels. Those people mean more to me than even the cutest emoji.

They get attached to inanimate objects

One day at work, when I was angry and depressed, I bought a sandwich and a bag of Greek tzatziki chips. I wolfed down the sandwich and threw away the bag it came in. An hour later, I realized I had thrown away my chips by accident. And I wept for those chips, which went to the landfill without accomplishing their one mission, to be eaten. Those chips suffered for nothing.

Of course, those chips didn’t suffer at all. But they never threatened or hurt me, the way that humans sometimes do. And I felt so cut off from the rest of my species that I invested all my sympathy in a bag full of starch, salt, and chemicals.

Getting attached to a disposable object is sad, but it’s safe.

When someone takes on light hoarding tendencies, it’s a glaring sign that they are failing to connect with people and are clinging to the things they feel are within their control. Appreciate the depth of feeling that is still there, beneath the frustration and sadness. Say something kind, with that appreciation in mind.

They sigh and roll their eyes

My dad was a quiet, dry person who often behaved as if irritated, pissed off, and too hip for the room. He put up with my endless questions while signaling that his patience was wearing thin, exhaling and rolling his eyes toward the sky.

I do this now. I do it when my resources are taxed to their limit and I don’t feel up to the day-to-day challenges of life and human interaction. Part of me hopes some supernatural force or coincidence will take mercy on me and rescue me from all this.

When I sigh and roll my eyes, I’m not thinking about how I could improve my lot or connect with others. I’m not confronting my problems or dealing with them productively. I’m giving up. I’m hoping this will all go away.

If your loved one acts aloof, superior, or over it all, they may be lonesome and in pain. Don’t take an eye-roll as an insult. If the eye-roller is someone for whom you care, be patient, take their ‘tude in stride, and ask “why” to see if it cracks the ice.

They seem to be sick all the time

In my drinking days, I assumed I was almost always tired because I was almost always hungover. Imagine my disappointment when I stopped drinking and still felt sick all the time.

When I’m in a deep bout of depression, I feel groggy and tired. I have no appetite, or I always seem to be dehydrated. I don’t want to do anything but sleep, or lie in bed and read articles. My head hurts. My lungs are sore. My symptoms don’t correlate with any particular illness. It’s a general malaise that never seems to go away.

If someone cancel a few appointments because of some mysterious illness that never seems to let up, asking a few pointed questions may be the caring thing to do. Ask why they haven’t been to the doctor. When they go to the doctor and discover that they are okay, let them know that, if they want to get a check up from the neck up, they have your support.

How you want to phrase these questions depends on the nature of your relationship. (You might not want to be as blunt as my friends and I are with each other. We’re jerks.)

Spot the high-functioning depressive

Most of my giveaway gestures and behaviors are hardly unique to me. I share them here in hopes that, if you notice them in people you care about, you will know something is up and possibly step in.

When you do, don’t expect gratitude, at least not right away. Depression is rage turned against the self. It takes complex forms and includes elaborate defense self-preservation mechanisms. If you start asking questions about it, some of that rage may come your way. It’s not about you, so don’t take it personally.

If you approach a depressed person with compassion and generosity, you are a hero, whether that person likes it or not. Sometimes a chip in the ice is all it takes for a heart to begin to thaw.

Just because we’re shutting out the world doesn’t mean we’ll be okay alone. It usually means the opposite. If you can sense when to reach out to quiet people when they can’t ask for help, you can provide a minor miracle.

Why I Meditate Every Day (Even Though I Suck At It)

Mindfulness meditation is an essential tool in any entrepreneurial skillset, the ultimate habit of highly effective hustlers, and a crucial facet of any decent personal brand. To unlock our full potential, all we have to do is squeeze in 30 minutes of breathing between cryrotherapy and p90x. We take our seats, we automate our social media marketing, and we gain complete control of our thoughts and emotions, forever.

Through mindfulness meditation, we’ll learn that compassion for the entire human race is the ultimate competitive advantage. Once we’ve dominated our own hearts and minds and made them our bitches, we can start controlling the attention of those around us, as well.

If you’re already practicing meditation and you’re doing it correctly, you know the feelings of equanimity, well-being, and superiority it brings. If you’re not meditating yet, or you’re afraid you’re screwing it up, keep reading.

The Truth About Meditation Practice

You’re still here, which means you’re not 100% balls-out confident that meditation is changing the game, taking it to the next level, or crushing it for you. That’s okay. Neither am I.

Even if meditation could rein in our egos and emotions and give us superpowers, anyone who’s meditating for personal gain, or with an end objective in mind, is missing the point.

We drive ourselves crazy with thoughts, desires, and attachments. Not just the ones that distract us or divert us from our goals, but the goals themselves. The pain comes not from the way things are, but from the idea that things should be different.

We will never be able to fix this. The point of mindfulness practice is simply to notice it. There can be great power and relief in that noticing, but, again, that’s beside the point. The point is simply the noticing itself.

Meditation doesn’t stop negative thinking — it exposes it. It doesn’t come with valuable stock options, but it may give us the insight to see how much of our pain comes from ego, ambition, and status anxiety.

Sigmund Freud said that “the only thing about masturbation to be ashamed of is doing it badly.”

This is not true of meditation. There’s no need to be ashamed of doing it badly. If we’re doing it badly, we’re right on schedule. The point of the practice is not to improve. The point is the practice itself.

The Practice

The bad news about meditation is that it’s a pain in the ass. The good news is that it’s simple. Just separate your direct experience from everything else.

Take a seat, either in a chair or cross-legged on a cushion. Close your eyes or let them droop at half-mast. And gradually turn your attention to your breathing. Give the breath your full awareness.

When I do this, the first thing I notice is that my mind is firing all sorts of thoughts at me, including mundane worries, petty jealousies, thousand-dollar business plans, and some truly dark and batshit stuff. When this happens, I acknowledge it. I say to myself, “thinking,” or I visualize a bubble floating up through clear water. And I bring my attention back to the breath. I continue until I’ve utterly lost my mind or my ten-minute timer goes off.

If you do this and you believe, straight away, that you’re not thinking, you may be so used to thinking that you’re thinking you’re not thinking. If you think you’re kicking ass at this right away, that’s a good sign you’re afraid to do it badly. Do it badly.

Great! Now repeat this practice every day until you’ve released any expectation that you will ever master it. 90% of success is showing up, and meditation is the art of showing up.

Why I Meditate Every Day, Even Though I Suck at It

I have dabbled in mindfulness meditation on and off for much of my life. In 2012, I began to experience crippling panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. Thanks to an unorthodox therapist, I discovered the shamatha practice (akin to what is typically known as mindfulness meditation) and began to meditate in earnest.

I’ve been doing it for awhile, and I am still a basket case, tortured by rumination, grasping, and self-aggrandizement.

The only difference is that I’m a lot more comfortable with that now.

I’ve learned some humility. I’ve learned to regard my thoughts and emotions with healthy skepticism and to take a second to breathe before I lean on my car horn, snap at my wife, or walk out on a job or a friendship. Sometimes I will do those things anyway, but that’s how it goes. I have had fleeting moments of experiencing the world beyond selfishness and judgment.

I am a sloppy sack of feelings, organs, and outmoded instincts, and I’m okay with that. When I try to fix myself, I’m wasting everyone’s time.The objective is to show up. The goal is to eliminate the need for a goal.

Live Real Mindfulness By Sucking Every Day

My daily to-do list is simple enough. Show up. Be human. Be a small, flawed person who forgot to rehearse, but show up anyway.

There is no guaranteed ROI. As I’ve learned to acknowledge that the stories I tell about myself are fiction, I’ve noticed that that my life does not fit into a clean narrative arc, which precludes “improvement.”

I just show up for this moment. And the next.

Whatever happens, we’ll be there to witness it. Whatever happens next, we’ll witness that, too, in a new way. We’ll be a part of the poetry, paradox, and change.