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Re: Depression and Work/regional discussion

Posted by Yardena on August 23, 1999, at 21:20:03

In reply to Re: Depression and Work/regional discussion, posted by Malia on August 23, 1999, at 18:31:14

Wow, I am "psyched" about all the responses! I just read them all, and each one got me thinking more about my relationship to work and depression. John, your first post made me realize that what I said about "checking my depression at the door" is not entirely true. I guess there have always been those days when I am a little down, low energy, unmotivated. I found that on a day like that I was fine responding to people but not good at taking initiative, especially with paper work and organizational tasks, which is my weakest area anyway. I would also take some time on those days to read, something relevant to my profession, which I could rationalize as being "productive" in a way.

Malia, it never occurred to me until you mentioned it that the attitudes about depression and other disorders is different in different parts of the country, but it definitely makes sense. I don't know what this region's reputed culture is, but I can guess--I live in Washington, DC! We all know about people whose careers have been ruined because their having been in psychiatric treatment was exposed in the press. On the other hand, Tipper Gore just went on national television and disclosed her own struggle with depression and her treatment, and is advocating for changing public and institutional attitudes about depression.

Roo and John both wrote about wondering what they might have done with their lives were it not for the depression. I have often wondered this too. Although I have a professional job and a couple of degrees, I didn't get there in a straight line. College was very hard for me. I almost dropped out several times. I changed my major three times. I had to go to summer school to finish the credits I needed after I actually walked through graduation. When I went to graduate school, I took incompletes because of my depression, and took a lot longer to finish my degree than expected. For a long time I, too, stayed in jobs that, although I liked them, were low paying and did not require the training I had. After a few years of therapy, I actually had a few relatively good years in my late twenties. I still struggled with depression during those years, but nothing too severe. That's when I finally figured out what I wanted to "major in" and went back to school. It was hard, but I enjoyed it as I had never enjoyed school before. In college and my first graduate school experience, I had such low self esteem that I would actually feel like some kind of outsider in the classes, like I had no right to ask questions, etc. I was too shy to ask questions anyway! I was always overwhelmed and had such difficulty writing papers. I would obsess and obsess and never be able to put anything down because I was already editing it in my head and the internal editor was so hypercritical that I would feel anticipatory shame and just freeze. But when I went back to school at 28, I was more ready, and computers were there to save the day! What an incredible liberation it was to be able to write and tell myself that I could edit afterward. (Of course, on the other hand, I now know how computers can add to my compulsive, never ending reediting, etc.) But at the time it helped me so much. It was also the first time that I was in school for myself and not for my parents or anyone else. I was there because I wanted to be.

Those few years of relative freedom from depression didn't last long enough, but at least it gave me the chance to get a foundation for a career which has been the one somewhat stable thing in my life.

I think there are other ways my depression holds me back professionally. I do a good enough job, but don't have a lot of self confidence, especially for taking on new risks. My coworkers might get up and present their ideas to an audience and I would typically hold back. I often feel it is hard for me to "know what I know". In other words, I intuitively know how to do my job, but am not real confident about expressing knoweldge, showing expertise. I know I know it intuitively, and use it, but am not so good at talking about it in a coherent way. I also tend to be plagued by so many self doubts, it is usually safest for me to bow out of anything that feels like a risk. Sometimes, tho, I want so badly to be able to do what other people do to show what they know, like make a presentation, but when I work on a presentation, I tend to get too anxious to carry it through.

As you can see, I don't mind expressing myself in writing (now, as opposed to the first 28 years of my life!), and doing so with you guys is so cathartic for me. I hope you don't mind how long I have babbled on.

Keep writing on this or other topics. I love to read it. I look forward every day to coming home and reading this forum!




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