Depression, For Me

Depression is:

Walking through Penn Station seeing the beauty in peoples face, and wondering how fucked up it is that I don’t feel connected.

Wondering about every time I missed coffee, left someone hanging, or missed expectations.

Seeing joy in couples as they walk during a warm New York December day (I am scared about this)

Thinking I am not smart enough, talented enough, or engaged enough to know the people on my phone, email list, or LinkedIn.

Tiring, nights of tossing and turning scared of the next disappointment, surrounded by a room filled with clothes I haven’t put away.

Movie, story, narrative, structure deep dives.

Inadequate, scared, frustrated and unfocused.

Depression is complicated.

Destructive Self Talk or The Chinese Finger Trap

The key is not resisting

Have you ever used one of those Chinese finger traps?

They look like this:

I loved them as a kid.

So, you would stick your fingers in the trap and then had to get them out.

The trick is, the harder you pulled, the tighter it got. So, when I would give it to my friends, I would love to watch them try to escape.

The way out is simple. Push in, and the trap loosens, allowing your fingers freedom.

Destructive self-talk is the same way. Whenever I try to fight it, it gets stronger. The talk suffocates me.

Going towards the talk helps create space that allows me freedom.

Don’t fall for the trap.


Self-Discipline and Self-Awareness

My inner voice is screaming.

This morning, I wanted to avoid this blog.

A sense of rebellion, a chance to run away from myself to spite me.

In a way, it functions as a reminder of how your internal dialogue is irrational.

It isn’t necessarily wrong.  That alarm exists for a reason. This self-rebellion is the result of something being “off.”

Self-discipline is knowing how to avoid your inner voice to finish things that need doing after that initial alarm. 

Self-awareness is taking that inner-voice seriously enough to sit down and continue the “conversation” after the alarm.

Don’t run from the next step.



Depression’s Deception – Why Saying “Get Happy” Doesn’t Do Anything

Depression is about disconnection, not sadness.

Telling someone to “get happy” when depressed is like treating just the headache when someone has the flu.

Humans are social creatures, and odd things happen when we get disconnected.

This is what makes depression an awful thing to deal with. Instead of thinking, “There is a place for me somewhere with some people,” you feel alone, out of place, and discarded.

This  paradox compounds with the problem discussing it in public, further making someone feel out of place.

If you find someone  who tells you they are depressed, don’t just tell them you love them; remind them that they matter, and how they connect with you.

Trust me, they need it more than a superficial “get better.”

Cursing As A Mantra – Getting Through The Lizard Brain and Resistance

I spent 3 hours cursing  and hitting the send button

I didn’t want to do it but I had to. It was January 3rd, and I felt scared. I came up with this proposal to email everyone I talked to over the last year a personal end of the year email. After doing it with the people I correspond with often, I got to the people who I emailed only once or twice.  So, I had to do something to get through it, so I just started cursing.

I think this is an opportune time to talk about resistance and the lizard brain, and why I turned cursing into a mantra to get stuff done.

Resistance and lizard brain, 2 of a kind

  • The “Resistance” – The “resistance“, developed by  Steven Pressfield, is a highway from fear to a state of avoiding work. The “resistance” is the mental gymnastics that we do to avoid hard emotional work.  It takes many forms, but excuses are its forte.  The most dangerous part of the resistance is its initial subtlety. We slip into it at a moments notice, and soon find that we ran through whatever time we had.

It’s late in the day, we are sitting at our desks, paralyzed with fear. It is nearing 3:30 — and you are currently fighting a war with yourself on moving forward with your work — the big picture stuff, the year-end goal, the thing that makes your eyes light up when you are in that state of flow.

A ping comes from your left and an email arrives – it becomes your salvation, because now you have “something to do” — and something that looks very busy, so the people around you know you are working.

While this is happening, you still can’t get rid of that sinking feeling you have, but, if only for a moment, it gets covered in the malaise of busy work.

Resistance has won — for another day.

  • The “Lizard Brain” – Popularized to me by Seth Godin, this is the concept of fight or flight.  We run to it the minute there is discomfort, because it instantly shifts the situation into something we know. Sometimes, there is nothing more comforting then blowing something up or ghosting. The most dangerous part of the lizard brain is its absolutism. We remove context and just jump into “action.”

Unfortunately, due to evolution, it is the strongest part of the brain. It makes sense – for most of our history, fight or flight meant everything.

If you are sitting in a meeting and you feel that uncomfortable “bleh” feeling,  Twitter is just one click away. (FYI: People with the business iPhone or Blackberry – email is the same escape)…Scariest part, it doesn’t get to make any decision of nuance, it has comfortable or this is it.

Why is this important to you writing emails?

Both act as alarms when I push through my anxiety. The emails that I wrote were end of the year emails, and what made me so anxious is that I had to fight through this idea that no one wanted to hear from me.  That factored in the resistance because we live in a world where distraction is simple. On my home PC there are computer games and on my phone there is Twitter and Facebook (my track record on getting lost with Facebook Video is embarrassing). The Lizard Brain worked its way in before i hit the send button, giving me the feeling to run away, and to push through I just started cursing.

It was my version of a mantra. “Send the ***** email.” It blocked it off long enough to get through to the world.

Sometimes you do what you have to do, no one said persistence is pretty. 

This post is a part of a series of posts based on my thoughts on “persistence.” This theme runs through March 2016 to merge my thinking. If you have any ideas or comments, please reach out to me on twitter @TheHonorableAT. 

It’s Better To Live With Yourself (bad habits)

[bctt tweet=”You have to forgive yourself. Beating yourself up never solves anything.”]

Bad habits never leave us.

They stick around, lurking in the darkness, waiting for us to slip.  Then we take note, and move on. This note applies against our will power and our esteem, and once we get enough marks, we fall back into the comfortable, bad habit.  What we think of as one bad slip is usually a group of many that hid itself well enough to not be noticed.


Yesterday, I took my cell phone and my wallet to work, and although I tried to keep them at bay, I kept obeying the urge to look.  My willpower got drained and suddenly, I found myself out of energy.

When I got home, I fell out. Something as small as keeping my cell phone away had me drained. This week, I usually got a ton of stuff done when I got home, yesterday I put on sweatpants and played video games (not that they are bad, but they, like the phone also create an escape).

Bad habits came back like they never left. Bad food for dinner, bad drinking decisions, no night-time habits kept up, and I soon woke up this morning out of energy and momentum.

How does this stop?

Well, two things. One, get the next good thing done and out they way. Always have a quick win at hand. Getting up? Make the bed. Showering? Do a quick floss.  Those quick wins are a fast way to build the self-esteem and get back into the good habits that generate success.


[bctt tweet=”Bad habits never leave us. “]

The second thing – forgive yourself. You have to forgive yourself. Beating yourself up never solves anything. As I typed morning pages, I found myself circling around self hate. I got aware, realizing that is a sign of depression and failure for me.  It puts me on the path of “I’m not good enough”, and instead of taking the lesson I use it as an excuse to say I don’t belong to anything good, and stick to anything bad.

Bad habits are a part of us, and we won’t escape them. Like emotions we don’t like (anger, sadness) it doesn’t feel good at the time, but there is no way to suppress them.



Confusion is Subjective

Confusion about anything leads me down a road I don’t like. Exits on that road include anger, sadness, and usually depression. I hate being confused more than anything in the world. It is arresting,  since depression tends to make every decision cloudy. You just don’t feel good about anything.

Why would confusion make me depressed? Never could figure that out. Confusion seems like a normal emotion to have. Aren’t we always confused?

Two words that are cousins to me are confusion and ignorance. Ignorance isn’t as bothersome, because when you find ignorance,knowledge can defeat it. I like to use the term conquer – it just sounds better than defeat to me. Conquering ignorance! It gives the task energy and spirit. That sounds like a move in a RPG or some great tactic.

What is the difference – and how can one give such a boost while the other drags? Confusion is not knowing why, the subjective side of things. Ignorance is not knowing why, the objective side of things. How do you switch things from subjective to objective? Remove the feelings and take the words as they are – face value.

I should reframe my confusion into ignorance.Confusion is when I take objective criticism and make it subjective, so I need to find some way to make the switch.

That sounds like a skill. You can learn skills. They are  picked up from mentors, read about or taught. I can make skills make sense.  Skills lead to opportunities and opportunities lead to get access to amazing things.

A thought: Nothing helps pull me out of a funk than finding a light at the end of the tunnel. Writing helps me do that.