Monday, December 7, 2009

Cycles and Changing the World

This is a long post... sorry

I've found depression is riddled with cycles. Chickens make eggs and eggs make chickens. Despair leads to anger, anger to destruction, and destruction to despair. Negative emotions feed off each other like a snowball rolling down a hill, collecting snow, gaining mass and energy, until it eventually hits the bottom of the hill and slows down or crashes and explodes, much like a human's psyche spiraling out of control.

Though the complex interactions of chemicals within the brain aren't truly comparable to the simple interactions of matter and gravity, the analogy demonstrates a striking resemblance between the two. Though I'm probably overextending the analogy, just as a snowball feeds off snow, so does sadness feed off anger. What's interesting is for the snowball to continue feeding it needs the constant input of energy, specifically gravity pulling it down the hill, as in physics there is no true self sustaining system. I wonder if there is some single input of negative energy I could eliminate from my life to help stabilize my mind... do I have a "gravity" sustaining my cycles? Interesting thought, but I'm getting off topic.

Recently I've been losing control of my life, and I need to get it back. When I'm isolated, I begin to focus on my life, which invariably makes me depressed as I have failed to live up to the expectations I set for myself years ago, particularly in the social sense, and I consider my life to be a major disappointment. And so the cycle begins. When I'm depressed I begin to stop my life. I lose motivation to do what "normal" people seem to do so naturally and easily. I stop talking to people. I stop even attempting to develop relationships. I stop doing work, doing only what is necessary to prevent anyone from noticing me (any noticeable spikes in school work are no good, as people begin to ask what's wrong). I essentially isolate myself in a room and avoid "doing" anything.

I tend to look down on the habit of never leaving your room, sitting and playing video games in your room all day and not talking to anyone. Obviously, when I become this I begin to despise myself even more. While I don't play video games, I do occupy my time with other fairly meaningless activities. As I look down on myself more and more, I get even more depressed, looking at how alone I am (even though I've isolated myself), wondering why I can't seem to function like a "normal" person, wondering if this is all I'll ever amount to. And so the cycle continues as I become even more depressed, I find myself wanting to run from everything, get away from my dorm which now feels more like a prison, but I can't leave or drastically change my life because I just don't want to stand out, and after all, boring though it may be, college is where I'm supposed to be... right?

One strategy is to get involved with some activity that forces me to get out of the dorm. The problem with this is I quickly get tired of the commitment of being forced to attend these activities. They're nice in the clutch, but in the long run they can be a major burden. (Note: I'm not saying it's bad for me to do these, and I'm not giving an excuse for not doing them, admittedly I should try and get more involved with more organizations like I've been in years past, but I'm just explaining why I'm not right now. This is something that needs work, like most other aspects of my life)

Another strategy is to always be changing the world. I don't mean change the entire world, I just mean change the state of the world, even if it is in the slightest manner, hopefully in a value adding manner. This is not an end all solution, but it's a step in the right direction. I realized my biggest problem was sitting around doing nothing. I have a lot more to fix, but this is step one; it is like grains on the food pyramid: you eventually need fruits and vegetables, but grains come first. Sitting around is what causes the most problems, so to always be changing the world is a good way to prevent that.

Let me explain what I mean by changing the state of the world. Imagine if the the entire world was stagnant, everyone stopped moving, nothing was happening. The state of the world would be constant. Now imagine if one person cut down a tree. The state of the world is now different. Everything but the tree has remained the same, but the tree itself is different, so technically the previous state of the world does not equal the current state of the world, as one has one more tree than the other.

Even the most minute changes we make technically change the state of the world. Writing in a journal changes the state of the world; where before there was a page with no text on it, there is now a page with text on it. Blogging changes the state of the world, as there is one more post on the internet than there was before. Painting changes the state of the world. Building things changes the state of the world. Photography changes the state of the world for where there was no photo, there now is. Watching TV does not change the world; when that show ends, nothing is different than it was before the show started. You could say you've worn out the TV a little more, and the chemistry of the brain cells in your long term memory has changed, but are those are hardly positive, and they aren't noticeable. No one will look at the television and say it looks worn out. No one will look at you and say, "You look different, have you been watching television?" Basically always be creating or altering something in a positive manner.

I've recently been trying to put this into practice. Honestly, it actually has helped. For once I kind of feel good about myself. I at least don't feel like a worthless piece of trash existing for the sole purpose of killing time, waiting and waiting but nothing ever happens. Even this post is a creation. It might feel small, but at least it is pushing me in the right direction. Doing something for an hour might not change much of anything, but you would be shocked with what 365 hours of "change" can produce.

If you find yourself low on motivation, keep it simple. Write one letter. Write one email. Draw one picture. Have a conversation with a stranger (affecting other people counts). Leave a mark. Leave a reminder that the day happened. Then go from there. Eventually you may find you've left quite a trail.