One of the problems with depression is that your brain lies to you. It tells you that things are going horribly, that no one likes you… and that ultimately you are a failure in everything you do. It is because of these lies that I find it extremely important to give myself a reality check every now and then, and really appreciate how lucky and blessed I really am. The Thanksgiving holiday has become my favorite over the years, and the reasoning behind that… is pretty simple. It cuts through all the pretense, and is just a holiday about sharing a meal and some conversation with your family. Granted my particular view of Thanksgiving may be dictated by the fact that we never host… but for us at least it is showing up someplace with a few dishes of food in hand… and then sitting down to have a lovely meal with folks that you don’t see as often as you might like. There are lots of times I wish we could convince our family to treat Christmas as Thanksgiving 2.0… because for me at least it is the getting together part that is the important bits… not necessarily the often times awkward gift exchange.
Thanksgiving is also a great time to sit down and review the past year. I could look at this year as nothing special, but in reality I was surrounded by my support network of friends and managed to continue releasing daily blog posts and weekly podcasts without missing a beat. That seems like a pretty great thing to be thankful for. More importantly I am thankful for my friends. There are so many of you that I talk to on a daily basis, and you are always there to offer a word of support or sometimes a much needed bringing down to earth. I am also extremely thankful for my amazing wife… who helps to center me… and keep me from going off the deep end sometimes. I’m also thankful for my very excellent work family, because they too make the daily grind thing much easier. I’ve been lucky to be under the same boss now for four or five years of my going on eight years at my current job… and I have to say he makes it enjoyable. I am also thankful to this blog and its readers, because whether or not you realize it… this daily writing routine and the interactions I have with you all about said writing is therapeutic. There is something about reconciling my thoughts and putting it onto paper, that helps organize my cluttered mind, and I thank you all for joining in the journey with me.
I’ve always thought that Thanksgiving made a much better day for reflection and resolutions than New Years. For me at least it has taken on this meaning of looking back at the things you did well, the things you didn’t do quite so well… and the things you would want to change. I am not exactly sure when I set down the path I am currently on, but it has at least been a year now since I started purposefully trying to cut as much negativity as I could from my life. I was tired of feeling bitter and frustrated with the world, and I set down a path of “fake it until you make it”. As goofy as that phrase sounds… it really does work because as time has gone on… I’ve myself become a much more positive person in my interactions with people… and in return my outlook on the world. I am a happier person today than I was a few years ago, and my hope is that I will be a happier person still in the coming year. It isn’t like I have some gauge to measure happiness by, but I know at least that I have less days where I am struggling to drag myself out of bed and confront the day.
I will likely always have the darkness of depression hanging over me, but I am getting better at simply not listening to the little voice in my head that is constantly replaying all of the things that are wrong with me. I doubt I will ever shut that off, but I’ve started to develop better coping mechanisms for blocking it out. I want to be someone that makes the lives of those around me better, not someone who brings others down. So even if that is just a brief message somewhere in the social media sphere, I want to leave a positive effect on those I interact with. I am never going to be a full on Pollyanna, because I am just too jaded for that to ever work… but I do want to be someone who is actively making things better rather than consistently making them worse. While what I do is not really important in the grand scheme of things, it is my hope that at least it is a legacy of good… not one of suffering.
By all accounts I was an almost painfully happy child, and based on all of the photos I have seen… I am willing to accept that at face value. Something happened along the way however to turn me into a fairly bitter, jaded and cynical person. I am good at what I do, because I plan for failure… because I don’t just accept it as a possibility… I expect it to happen. So being an eternal pessimist has been great for a career in software development… but pretty horrible for my outlook on the world. While I am not a doomsday prepper by any means, my mind just naturally works along the lines of preparing for the worst possible thing to happen in every single interaction. I can tell you the constant battling of my brain is tiresome when you take this instinct and mix it with the depression. My brain can make some pretty insane leaps, as failure to shake someones hand… ends up leading to me being out cold and hungry on the streets. There is a whole irrational segment of my mind that is constantly churning out doomsday scenarios out of average every day occurrences. Maybe I simply took my Eagle Scout training a little to seriously, with the whole “Be Prepared” motto.
Now all of these instincts that I am talking about are pretty deep rooted, but it doesn’t mean I think they are good things. It is my hope over the next year to work towards being less cynical. I write about video games, not industrial accidents. I should have more child like joy about the things I am doing, rather talking about how this or that is a portent of a big coming failure. I am tired of seeing the bad in my hobby, and I am tired of feeling like everything is going to shit… and quickly. I mean the world around us does a pretty good job of eternally bumming me out on a regular basis, I really don’t need my hobby to do it as well. So along with the methodology of faking it until I make it… I am going to try applying that positivity more thoroughly and hopefully root out some of my cynicism towards everything. I want the coming year to be an awesome one, and I want to spend more time enjoying the awesome things around me… rather than worrying about the things that aren’t. I can’t say that I think it will be easy, but I think it will be good in the long run for my own mental health and happiness.
In closing… I hope each of you has your own personal day of reflection upon all the ways you are lucky in your life, and all of the things you would strive to change. I hope you enjoy your time with family and friends, and enjoy the ritual of sharing a good meal. Thanksgiving is this day that has a special meaning for me, and it is my hope that it develops a special meaning for each of you. May you have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and even if you are not celebrating it… may your day be excellent as well.