Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

7/10/2020

COVID-19 and Mental Health

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Personal Care — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Make no mistake, mental health has always been an important issue for me.

But, with the pandemic lockdown, as loose and unrestrictive as it has really been, I feel all kinds of anxiety and depression that I normally only have to deal with when I’m starting a new job or when I’ve been single during the holidays. I can get the blues like everyone else. Usually, it’s just short-lived and very transient, but that’s only because the circumstances that cause the issue are short-lived and transient, too. With COVID-19, no one knows how long things are going to be like this. It could literally be several years that we’re dealing with some of these issues, if not all of them. While I have faith that we’ll either come up with a vaccine or a treatment that greatly reduces symptoms and consequences, that may be months if not years away. We don’t know what kind of long-term effects contracting COVID-19 will have on people. And, to top it all off, there’s been another swine flu found in China that has the potential to sweep the world the same way this one has. I, for one, hope they can contain it until we at least have the chance to elect some different government officials. Maybe this time we’ll get some people in office who understand science and public health. (If you haven’t registered to vote yet, now is a great time. Just hit this link to Vote.gov and they’ll give you instructions. The country you save may be your own!) But, until then, we’re stuck. We don’t know how long this will go on. And, I have to admit, it’s been wearing on my mental health. I can only imagine what it’s been like for someone who’s already got clinical depression.

To be fair, I definitely feel better this morning than I have in a couple of days. And, you may have noticed that this will be the third week running that I’ve shared links about mental health and getting help. I’m doing that because I think it’s that important.
For me, I’ve been praying and doing formal, sitting meditation for years and that’s helping. My wife and I took beginning meditation classes at the Houston Zen Center a number of years ago, and I’ve sat for at least 20 minutes at least 5 days a week since then. It’s been helpful in ways that I have a hard time explaining to people. But, if you’ve ever been curious about what meditation practice is the Houston Zen center is a great resource. And, you can join in even if you’re not in Houston, since everything is pretty much remote only right now, via the Houston Zen Center Cloud Zendo.
I also find that trying to keep engaged in things that interest me has helped some. I’ve been writing Morning Pages for about two months now. That’s been helpful. It hasn’t kickstarted my fiction writing yet, but I hope it will help get me over that hump soon. And, I’ve decided to work on search engine optimization as well. I used to do that, for fun, with my older sites. In fact, for a while, Diary of a Network Geek was the number one hit on Google for the search term “network geek”. It’s not now, mainly because I stopped creating a steady stream of original content, but, also my success with those search terms made me a bit of a target. And, that’s okay. Honestly, it was a great indicator of how successful I was! I’m hoping I can recreate that success here. I’ll let you guess the search terms I’ll want to optimize for, though. And, I’ve added a tool to help me make pretty book reviews, too. I’ve always enjoyed reading, though I don’t seem to have the time and focus to read the way I used to when I was younger. Actually, ever since I had cancer back in 2007, I’ve felt like I wasn’t as sharp with reading as I used to be. In any case, I still enjoy it and enjoyed reviewing books, so I’ll start that again. I’ll mostly be reviewing fantasy and science fiction books, but there will be others, especially non-fiction on topics that interest me. I make no promises at how often those reviews will arrive, though.

So, in short, y’all watch out for your brains! Make your mental health a priority, especially now with all the crazy stressors of the dumpster fire that 2020 has become. If you have a spiritual practice, follow that and don’t give up on it. I truly believe that pursuing a more spiritual path is the only thing that’s kept me alive and kicking some times in the past 18 years or so. And, I think it will be what gets me through this COVID-19 craziness, too.

But, if you know someone who needs a little extra help with their mental health right now, don’t forget these resources:
MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help

The National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline – 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

And, as I continually write here and elsewhere, please, remember, there’s no shame in getting help. In fact, getting help is what strong people do.
If you or a loved one needs help with depression or any other mental health issue, please, don’t wait until it’s too late.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my newest blog and labor of love.

6/26/2020

Facing The Black Dog

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,News and Current Events,Personal Care,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Yeah, I’m talking about depression.

That metaphor, calling depression the “Black Dog”, is usually attributed to Winston Churchill, but I’ve definitely heard it from a lot of sources. We tend to want to show our best faces on social media and on our blogs, but the truth is, most of us aren’t the happy, shiny Instragram people we want the world to see. I know I’ve had my own bouts of depression, on and off, for years. It feels like sitting in the bottom of a pit without light or hope, at best forgotten, but at worst with people shoveling dirt on top of me. There have been various reasons for it and I’m grateful that all my depression has been transitory. It’s always been what I call situational depression. One time, it was because I was getting divorced. Another time it was because my cardiologist had given me betablockers, which killed my motivation and made me want to just lay on the couch all the time. There have been other times, usually around a job loss or some other relationship failure on my part.
Right now, though, all of 2020 so far has been enough to depress anyone. I mean, I’m pretty blessed to have a job that pays well and lets me work from home at least some of the time, but I’m very aware that a lot of people don’t have that. And, even though I count my blessings on a regular basis, I still worry about COVID-19 for my wife and me and the rest of my family. I still worry about the economy and my friends who don’t have stable work. I’m absolutely blessed, but only someone out of touch with reality wouldn’t find some things to be depressed about right now.
And, even in that, I know I’m lucky. My depression has always gone away, so I know the latest bout of it will absolutely fade, too. But, my wife has clinical depression. She spends a good portion of her day dealing with that, whether it’s making sure all the meds she takes are right and that she’s stocked up correctly, or planning healthy meals, or trying to get enough rest, or enough exercise. She works very hard at it all the time. And, I’ve seen her when all that’s NOT working and she does get swallowed up by depression. I know how hard it is to watch, and I can only imagine how hard it is to live through.
So, I’ve got nothing fun or happy or silly for you this week. What I’ve got is a little understanding if the Black Dog has gotten off the leash and you need a little help. If you feel like everything is too much and depression might overwhelm you, try one of the resources here:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help

The National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

And, remember, there’s no shame in getting help. In fact, getting help is what strong people actually do.
If you or a loved one needs help with depression or any other mental health issue, please, don’t wait until it’s too late.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/8/2020

Today, More Than Ever…

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Personal Care,The Day Job,The Network Geek at Home,Truth and Consequences — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

In these troubled times, we’re all talking about the same thing in the same way.

I know the isolation is getting rough for all of us and it’s definitely giving me more days where I feel like my brain has more in common with moldy cottage cheese than the evolutionary advantage I’m told it is. In fact, I’ve been trying to write this post for days. Normally, I queue up these weekly posts with plenty of time to spare, but, lately, I’ve been writing them closer and closer to my self-imposed morning deadline. Honestly, I know in part it’s because I’ve been just as busy as I normally am, if not busier, but also because my creative thinking is just weak and stagnate. That’s been made no better by the posts on LinkedIn telling me that “…[if] you don’t come out this quarantine with: -A new skill -Your side hustle started -More knowledge you never lacked time, you lacked discipline.” For one thing, that’s bullshit. If you have time to do any of those things, you’re unemployed and worried about finding work and healthcare, which is not conducive to actually accomplishing any of those things, or you’re stealing time and resources from your employer. Either that, or you’re about to be laid off because you’re normally so unproductive that you have all this spare time and just needed to be able to more sufficiently hide that from your supervisor by not being seen. And, even if you aren’t doing that, but for various reasons are legitimately employed and legitimately not stealing time from your employer, you may still be massively depressed because of all the chaos and fear and stress at all levels of society. Saying that we should all just get our collective shit together and magic up some of that toxic hustle that the magical thinking, next-wave, would-be Napoleon Hill’s have been trying to sell us for the past decade, is about like telling a person with clinical depression they should just try to be happier. That’s not how it works. If that’s all it took, we wouldn’t have a multi-billion dollar antidepressant medication industry. Granted, those faux inspirational messages all seem to come from marketing companies who, traditionally, make more money when they can sell people things to fix problems we don’t have until the marketing companies convince us that we need to fix them, but it seems like it’s been really bad the last couple of years. Really, it’s just the latest “get rich quick” scheme meant to fleece the unwary and desperate. Of course, the truth there is that the only way to get rich quickly, is to sell someone else the “sure-fire method” of getting rich with little to no work. (Spoiler alert; those are all scams!)
And, for me, the added stress and strangeness of working from home has made everything seem flat and repetitive. Surely, you’ve noticed that all the commercials lately sound the same, right? According to the Boing Boing article titled “Every COVID-19 Commercial Is Exactly The Same”, part of my challenge may be something called “semantic satiation”, which is “…a psychological phenomenon in which repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning for the listener, who then perceives the speech as repeated meaningless sounds.” And, that’s officially the excuse I’m using for why it feels like nothing anyone is saying any more matters. And, that’s true for news stories about the ailing economy, too. So, basically, what I’m saying here is that I feel massively overwhelmed by this entire situation, as do, I imagine, the two other people who probably still read this blog, as well as everyone else in the country. We can’t keep track of what day it is, or what we should be doing, which are both signs of stress and depression, by the way. And, I seriously think that just maintaining my “day job” is impressive enough.
The thing is, the world is changing. Of course, the world is always changing, but, right now, we are all very, very aware of the fact that it’s changing and that the changes are pretty much all out of our control. Honestly, that’s how it is pretty much all the time, but, right now, we just can’t avoid that particular truth. And, you know what? That’s a really scary thing to wake up to and it’s okay to be scared or whatever you may be feeling by all this. It’s okay. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and like it’s super hard to do anything that really matters. It’s okay to just want to have a hobby that’s fun and not going to result in some monetary gain. It is okay.
For me, that’s been photography in the past. They way I like to do photography takes a lot of time, though, so I haven’t done as much as I’d like. If you feel like you’d like to get creative and learn a little photography, for fun, but haven’t known where to start, I have good news. Now you can get some free, thanks to the Photography Life YouTube channel, which has all kinds of video tutorials meant for beginners. (I do have to admit, I found them thanks to PetaPixel.)
If that’s too much, then go ahead and try a game. In the past I’ve talked about Universal Paperclips, which is still a good choice, as it mostly runs in the background after a certain point. But, there’s also a new game that looks fun, based on this article on Engadget, Who knew I’d get obsessed with a spreadsheet game?.
And, if you just need to have some soothing music in the background while you try to work, try Robert Fripp’s Music for Quiet Moments series. Each is about 50 minutes of gentle, peaceful music. For something a little more unnverving, try the AI-generated music based on famous artist’s original work. It’s a little odd, but certainly interesting.

Finally, I’d like to share something with you that I personally find helpful and uplifting; Pema Chödrön on SuperSoul Sunday via the Oprah Winfrey Network YouTube channel. She’s a fantastic Buddhist teacher and her talks and books are incredibly valuable teaching for me in “these uncertain times”.

So, like I promised, things are getting weird. Next week, I’ll be in the office a bit. My co-worker and I are coming in every other day, to try and help keep the potential for exposure to COVID-19 to a minimum for us. I pray that it goes well.
Check in next week to see!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/23/2018

How to Help a Loved One

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Personal Care — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Especially, if they’re depressed or suffering from other mental illness.

The holidays can be an especially rough time of year. I know for many years, I would get a kind of seasonal depression that would come over me after Halloween and last until at least Christmas, and often until after St. Valentine’s Day. In my case, it was due to not being in a relationship, mostly, and having an unrealistic expectation about how my life should look. But, frankly, even for people who are otherwise happy, the holidays can be rough. I mean, they call it the “holiday blues” for a reason, right? So, what do you do if someone you know and love is suffering from season depression? Well, sometimes, listening is enough. Just being there and hearing them, without necessarily trying to fix it can actually be a big benefit. Also, if it seems like your loved one is having more than very short-term depression, it’s perfectly okay to suggest they need more help than you can provide. Unless you’re actually a mental health professional, you may not be all that qualified to actually help someone who’s seriously depressed. One of my favorite science-based websites, Quick and Dirty Tips has some suggestions for How to Help a Loved One Suffering from Mental Illness. It’s really good and, yes, someone with depression is, in fact, suffering from mental illness. It’s possible that it’s seasonal and may pass, but, you know your loved one, and if it looks like something more than that, the linked podcast is worth a listen.

Also, if it seems like your loved one is more than a little depressed and may be suicidal, talk to them about it. And, no, talking to someone about whether or not they’re contemplating suicide will not make them more suicidal. That’s a myth, and a deadly one at that. (For more discussion about some of the more dangerous myths about suicide, again, take a look at this article on Quick and Dirty Tips.) And, if you think they already have a plan, encourage them to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You could actually be saving their life.

Hopefully, that’s not something you’re struggling with this holiday season, but if it is, please, get help. The holidays can be really rough and depression is nothing to try and ignore.

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!

4/27/2018

Interactive Self-Care

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Or, my best advice has been reduced to a small web page.

Seriously, I cannot tell you how many of my friends have come to me with major issues that tend to include things like panic attacks, crippling self-doubt and related side-effects. It’s possible that’s the result of them knowing I’ve been through most of that myself, not to mention surviving cancer when I was single and thousands of miles from family. Really, that kind of thing can harden up your survival skills. Trust me on this one.
My blushing bride tells me that it’s because I’m somehow reassuring. Even strangers seem to think I exude some kind of gentle trustworthiness that makes it okay to tell me all kinds of things.
Regardless of why, I’ve talked more than my share of people out of tough emotional spots before. Off the metaphorical ledge, if you’ll allow me the melodramatic metaphor. My advice, though, is usually really simple; eat something good, drink some water, take a nap.
Well, now, when you can’t find your Uncle Jim to help you through a rough time, you can try You Feel Like Shit, an interactive website that can help you through dark times. You just answer a series of questions and the site helps you make some good, healthy self-care choices that, hopefully, will help you through whatever is going on. The creator, Amanda Miklik, would like to remind you that this really good site doesn’t replace the help of a mental health professional, and neither do I, so we’re on the same footing. And the site may actually be a little more helpful than I am.

Anyway, it’s not exactly a Friday “Fun” link, but it’ll do this week. So, enjoy your weekend, drink some water, eat something healthy and delicious and take a nap.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

9/12/2011

Another Year’s Reprieve

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:20 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

I’m not going to die.

Well, at least, I’m not going to die of cancer.  Not this year, anyway.
Today, the oncologist told me my lymphoma is in full remission still.  In fact, the scar tissue has shrunk even more, from 14cm to 11cm, which I think is kind of amazing, but didn’t seem to illicit any special notice from the doctor.  Some people are just impossible to please, I guess!
He was a little worried because my blood pressure was high, but, then again, I’d just driven though rush-hour traffic to wait around for more than an hour for results on whether or not I was going to have to let them poison me for another six months.  All things considered, I think it’s pretty normal that I might have a slightly elevated BP!  But, I will keep an eye on it and make sure it normalizes again.
He did say, also, that I’ve made it to the point where less than 10% of the people have a likely recurrence of lymphoma.  And, according to his Physician’s Assistant, the five-year mark is where I can be officially considered “cured”, which is the first time anyone has actually told me that.  Everyone else keeps telling me that I’ll never really be “cured”, per se, but always in remission with a smaller, and smaller, and smaller chance of reoccurence every year.  So, today, I got a little more hope than I had before, which is actually pretty nice.

All in all, a pretty good result.  I’ll go back in another 10 months for another scan, which is not quite as long as I’d like, but, better than going again sooner because they found something to be concerned about.  At that time, they will start me on a course of annual visits for this scan, which I’m not incredibly happy about, but will do until a better option comes along.  And, based on what his PA told me, I think it will be something negotiable.  The doctor may not realize that, but, well, I suspect he’s not quite used to dealing with a patient like me.  My last doctor and I joked about the fact that I wouldn’t pay my bills until I knew she was going to do her job and save my life.  We agreed that it seemed only fair!  Of course, she did, in fact, save my life, so I did pay those bills.  That is, however, one concern I have for the long-term; paying those bills.  This gets to be a pretty expensive process and if I don’t really need to keep doing it every year, I may chose to opt for a slightly modified plan.
The doctor may not be excited by that, but I have ten months to sharpen my bargaining skills, while he’s completely in the dark about my plans.  It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out!

Until then, though, I continue to work on my general health and wellness.  I was pleasantly surprised to weigh in at a mere 216, fully clothed and laden down with my ridiculous “daily carry” of keys and flash drives and over-stuffed wallet and all the other pocket litter, as the spies call it, that I usually have on me.  As I mentioned, my blood pressure was a bit high, but I’ll work on that.  A little Zen meditation, and maybe some yoga, ought to bring that under control again.
Oh, don’t be so shocked by the yoga!  No, I haven’t started doing it yet, but several people have suggested it and I decided to start looking into it.  I’m getting older and starting to tighten up some.  My knees in particular seem to get stiffer faster than they did.  Besides, I hear yoga class is a great place to meet women who are physically fit!

I do still struggle a bit with depression.  Nothing too bad, but, well, it is something that cycles around on a semi-regular basis.  I figure the yoga and meditation would help with that, too.  Speaking about my psychological well-being…
My oncologist tells me I should get married.  I thought it might be better to start with dating, but I’m pretty sure I can work the “doctor’s orders” into a decent and semi-original opening line.  I think a bit of laughing in the face of death might help some, too.  I hear chicks dig that.  Of course, I also hear that magnets can cure joint pain and people pay huge money for the kind of rough treatment my poor colon got last week for “health reasons”.  Frankly, I find it hard to believe that a regular course of high colonics could possible be good for me, so I’ll take the things Men’s Health tells me about women with a grain of salt.  (Though, I have started to edit my Match.com profile again in preparation for stepping out in the wild world of dating again.  Seriously.  Lock up your daughters!  Seriously!)

So, yeah, after all my angst last week about the physical side-effects of chemotherapy, I’ve been spared that.  I even got better than expected news, frankly!  So, I admit, I do feel a bit foolish for getting so worked up about it.  I mean, I should have more faith than that, shouldn’t I?  Well, that’s something else I’m still working on.
Thankfully, it seems I have the time.

 


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Sanity is a one trick pony -- all you have is rational thought. But when you're good and loony, the sky's the limit!
   --from "The Tick"

8/19/2009

Blog Confessor

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 1:03 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

“Forgive me, blog, it’s been…  Well, a long time.”

Wow, my blogging has been really sketchy here the past couple of months.  There are reasons.  Lots and lots of reasons.  First, of course, would be my no-longer-pregnant-friend’s-wife being, uh, no longer pregnant.  Did I tell you they named the baby after me?  Well, his middle name is my first name.  And, he’s an angel.  Also, I heard yesterday, he was circumcised, which means statistically he’ll be more likely to recieve oral sex as an adult.  So, you know, he’s got that going for him.

But, I’ve had a few other things that have kept me from blogging as much, or being as personal, too.
For one thing, I’ve been depressed.  Not in the “holy-jeebus-I-can’t-stand-living-anymore” way, but a kind of low-level, unmotivated, anti-social, why-can’t-I-ever-get-enough-sleep sort of way that makes doing more than day-to-day living a little difficult.  Funny thing about that, though, is a couple of weeks ago I finally broke down and saw the therapist who got me through my divorce a couple years back.  Well, I suppose that’s not funny, but what he said was.  After talking to him for about 20 minutes, he suggested I go see my cardiologist about changing my high-blood-pressure medication.  After listening to some of the symptoms of my depression, like insomnia, mood-swings, irritibility, a general anti-social bent, terrible short-term memory, among others, and connecting that with new medication I started taking while I was getting chemotherapy, he related a tale of personal woe to me that had me covinced in no time that I needed to make a cardiologist appoinitment.  So, I have one Thursday afternoon.  It took more than two weeks to get in to see this guy, because he’s got that good a reputation.  Hopefully, that will bode well for changing my meds.  Can you imagine, though?  Two years of insomnia may have all been caused by side-effects of medication that I was ignoring.  Amazing.

Of course, some of my depression and what not is due to other things, but I think a lot of it is a side-effect of that insomnia.  The funny thing is, it all starts to reinforce itself.  So my messy house that I never have the energy to clean, makes me even more depressed and makes it harder for me to get the energy to clean.  All the projects that I want to start, including that other mystery blog, take more energy than I feel I have, which makes me more depressed and hard on myself, which, in turn, saps more energy away on useless recriminations and feelings of depression.  It’s a viscious circle.

But, I hope that will change soon.
Of course, staying up late to write this probably hasn’t helped, so now I’m off to bed.  Ciao!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The person who WILL NOT read is no better off than the person who CAN NOT read."


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