Diary of a Network Geek

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

5/28/2021

Depression At Work

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal Care,The Day Job — 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

I’m no stranger to getting things done in spite of being depressed.

Look, even before the pandemic, life could get pretty hard sometimes. I mean, with brutal schedules and lack of staffing that’s been frankly endemic to corporate IT, which is what I do for a living, anyone can get beaten down and get depressed. Add to that the endless list of economic factors that have added weight to everyone’s state of mind and all the politics and social media and the usual family “stuff”, and, well, it’s surprising to me that we don’t just put antidepressants in the water like fluoride. But, we don’t. And, losing it at work is only going to make things like bills and health care, and family issues even harder. So, what to do? Well, there’s a lot, actually, but a good place to start is the list of suggestions in this article on Monster about dealing with depression at work. They suggest, of course, talking to a professional and investigating if your company has an employee assistance program, which usually includes some kind of access to counseling services. And, if you’re worried about being judged harshly by the boss, keep in mind that those services are all strictly confidential.
One thing that I’ve done, when I was going through my divorce, for instance, was to journal about what’s bothering me. And, I tried to schedule the worst of the breakdowns for when I was home, alone, with the dog. It helped. Also, my ex-wife once told me that no one can see you cry in the shower. In retrospect, it’s a little sad that she not only knew that but thought that I could use the information, but she’s also right about it. The most important thing is, though, do your best, but don’t do it alone. Get help before you can’t do your job because that just makes all the other stuff that much worse.

So, as I wrote at the start of the month if you’re struggling with depression or any other mental health issue, don’t wait. Go get help. You can find some good resources at MentalHealth.gov – How To Get Mental Health Help And, most importantly, if you feel like you’re going to hurt yourself or others, please, do reach out to someone.

Suicide & Mental Health Hotlines in The United States
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline 1-877-726-4727
Trans Lifeline 1-877-565-8860 (for the transgender community)
TrevorLifeline 1-866-488-7386 (for LGBTQ youth)
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255, Press 1

 

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Men are born with two eyes but with one tongue, in order that they should see twice as much as they say."
   --Charles Caleb Colton

5/21/2021

Antidepressants or Tolkien Character?

Filed under: Fun,Fun and Games — 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 Gibbous

Mental health is serious, but we can still have fun with it.

So, I know I tend to be super serious about things like mental health and medication because it can be a huge deal in someone’s life, especially if things aren’t going well. But, that doesn’t mean that we still can’t have a little fun, too.
I thought I’d share this before, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere on my blog, so I’m going to risk it and share an amusing game I first saw via my fellow geeks at Boing Boing called Antidepressants or Tolkien. It’s a fun little quiz that throws a strange name at you and asks the simple question: is it an antidepressant or a name from Tolkien’s work? I have to admit, I only got 15 of 24 questions right. It’s more challenging than you might think! I mean, yes, some are obvious, but some really are NOT! Either way, it’s a fun little game and has at least a tenuous connection to mental health, so I felt it was good to share. Who knows? It may even end up being accidentally educational!
Either way, have fun and come back next week for more!

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!

5/14/2021

Mental Illness In Movies

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Movies,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 Waxing Crescent

If it’s done well, there’s an opportunity to help people.

Of course, Hollywood likes to exaggerate things a bit, but even when that’s the case, there are opportunities for learning and increased awareness of mental illness and dealing with it. As I mentioned last week, this is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I’m trying to share topics related to mental health and psychology. I’m especially trying to share things that I think might be helpful to anyone who is either having mental health issues or may have a loved one with mental health issues. So, even though the examples in this video from GQ shared via BoingBoing of a psychiatrist rating mental health scenes in movies can be a bit extreme, knowing what they’re trying to depict and how it might present in the real world can be helpful. Also, the doctor gives some advice about actually getting help for some of these disorders and what actual treatment may look like.
I think what was particularly helpful was that he reminded people that an actual diagnosis may take multiple visits over some significant time and that it’s not really a “disorder” unless a person’s life is being significantly impacted in a negative way. Take my own example of depression, for instance. It’s only in retrospect, after getting on medication, that I realized how much it was affecting me, and I had what most people would think of as a mild case. I mean, I was basically functional, but I was having more and more difficultly doing regular, daily, work-related tasks that a few years ago, were no problem. Now, though, that I’ve been on the antidepressants for about six weeks, I’m doing much better. I never had the severe symptoms that are usually depicted in the movies or on TV, but it definitely was having a negative impact on my life. I’m glad I finally listened to my wife and got help.

Just remember, there IS help if you’re having a problem with your mental health, whatever it is. Most importantly, it’s okay to ask for help and take it when it’s offered.

 

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Girls are like pianos. When they're not upright, they're grand."

5/7/2021

Mental Health Month

Filed under: About The Author,Advice from your Uncle Jim,Life Goals,News and Current Events,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 Crescent

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

I’ve talked about mental health on my blogs before, especially in relation to stress and the pandemic. COVID-19 and the attempts to deal with it have added extra stress to all of our lives and stretched our mental health to the limits. And, this past year has been particularly hard for me with the death of my father. I never realized just how close we were until I couldn’t turn to him for advice or just to talk things through. Grief is its own kind of mental health issue, for sure, but layered on top of everything else, it’s just made things harder.
I was surprised to find out after my father’s passing that we have a bit of a family history of depression. Dad’s generation didn’t talk about that sort of thing much. They still, in general, see things like depression as a kind of moral failing or weakness. For years, I’ve known that I have a bit of depression. I’ve fought it since at least high school. It wasn’t crippling by any means, but it absolutely made life more difficult. After getting divorced, I saw a therapist and that helped for a bit, but, if I’m being honest, I’ve had bouts of depression since long before meeting my ex-wife and continued to have them well after I felt the freedom of being released from that tragedy of a marriage. My wife has been on medication for depression for longer than I’ve known her. It keeps her sane and functional and for years she’s tried to convince me to try antidepressants. I’ve always resisted. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely understand the mechanism of neurotransmitters and how they can affect mental states. And, I completely believe that medication can help. But, for years, I also believed that it could help everyone ELSE and that I didn’t really need it.
About six weeks ago, I relented and talked with my doctor about taking a light antidepressant to see if it helped me with my current struggles. I’ve been taking them for about six weeks and I absolutely can tell the difference. So far, it looks like the doctor has picked a winner and I’m not having any side effects, but I can positively see the difference in my mood and my productivity. I had no idea how much what I thought of as mild or reasonable depression was affecting my productivity, but it very clearly was. Things that I would put off indefinitely because they just seemed overwhelming get done in a much more timely fashion because they’ve become “right-sized” in my no longer depressed brain. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like antidepressants have solved all my problems. They haven’t, I’m sorry to say. However, they do let me be more fully present and capable of dealing with my problems. Most importantly, they haven’t negatively impacted my thinking at all as I have been afraid of them doing. Nor have they reduced my creativity in the slightest. If anything, they’ve freed me a bit more to think MORE clearly and act MORE creatively. I wish I’d tried them sooner.

So, if you’re struggling with depression or any other mental health issue, don’t wait. Go get help. You can find some good resources at MentalHealth.gov – How To Get Mental Health Help And, most importantly, if you feel like you’re going to hurt yourself or others, please, do reach out to someone.

Suicide & Mental Health Hotlines in The United States
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline 1-877-726-4727
Trans Lifeline 1-877-565-8860 (for the transgender community)
TrevorLifeline 1-866-488-7386 (for LGBTQ youth)
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255, Press 1

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"All our dreams can come true - if we have the courage to pursue them."
   --Walt Disney

4/16/2021

Stress Relief Course

Filed under: About The Author,Advice from your Uncle Jim,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 Waxing Crescent

Training for how to deal with stress.

Although it’s meant primarily for COVID-19 pandemic stress, which I think all of us have been feeling to some degree, this course from TalkSpace on managing stress can be pretty universally useful. I know personally, I’ve been loaded almost to the breaking point with stress this past year between everything related to the pandemic, stepping in a larger role at work, politics, and the loss of my father. Of course, a lot of that could be causing stress regardless of the pandemic, as could things like job loss and the break up of long-term relationships. It’s been a rough couple of years for most of us, I think. So, this really seems like a good thing to share.
I have to admit that I haven’t done the course myself so I can’t speak to its particular utility, and the creators make clear that they don’t want anyone to substitute it for one-on-one therapy, but for those of us who can’t afford the time and expense of anything else, at least it’s something. And, more so for those of us who maybe just need a little extra help, but not a full round of therapy, it can help.
While the course is free, they do ask for an email address. I’m assuming that they’ll use it for marketing opportunities, which seems a fair trade-off. I can always unsubscribe later.

Let me say, though, that if you’re feeling suicidal, please, do reach out to someone.

Suicide Hotlines in The United States
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Trans Lifeline 1-877-565-8860 (for the transgender community)
TrevorLifeline 1-866-488-7386 (for LGBTQ youth)
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255, Press 1

 

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A friend of mine told me once that they don't lock you up for being crazy, only for acting crazy."

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!

3/20/2020

Miscellaneous Fun Links

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games,News and Current Events,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 Crescent

Look, it’s been a crazy, chaotic week, which means you’re getting a crazy, chaotic post.
So, like all the rest of the IT pros in small shops all over the world this week, I’ve been scrambling to get as many people in my office able to work from home as possible. It’s been a long, frustrating week and basically nothing has gone the way I’d planned. Granted, that does mean that some things are actually better than I planned, but, honestly, most aren’t. Either way, it’s left me precious little time and focus to give you anything coherent. But, it is still a Friday and I feel compelled to share something. So, random fun links it shall be!
A lot of folks are stuck at home with their kids, who are out of school because it’s been closed while the academic year has been delayed. So, to help parents keep kids engaged, I have two links for you. First, there are Free NASA Space Projects via Space.com. I’m in the greater Houston area and we all get a little into NASA, because they’re such a big employer here and we have so much amazing history with the space program. These projects are all things you can do at home and keep learning while the schools figure things out. The second link is to a downloadable Cthulhu coloring book from Chaosium. Yes, it may warp their little minds, but it’s coloring! And, coloring is good, clean fun, as well as a known way to reduce stress and anxiety. Though, I’m not responsible if you all summon an Elder God!
The next two links are for book lovers. Specifically for book lovers who love science fiction and fantasy. First, or third, depending on how you’re counting, there’s the Tor eBook Club, which regularly offers free ebooks from popular authors. Through the end of the day of this posting, you can join and download Redshirts by John Scalzi! Or, you can check out the fourth link, the Baen Books Free Library! Again, ebooks, but free and from some very well known, award-winning authors. Both are just the thing if you’re looking for something new to read without spending a lot of money.
And, finally, a slightly stranger than normal link, specifically for our most current concerns, How Much Toilet Paper!?, a website that will help you calculate just how far your stash of toilet paper will last during this most current, or any future, pandemics! A fun, and hopefully funny, website about an increasingly serious topic. And, I know that first hand as I actually ordered toilet paper for my older parents online and had it sent to them. And, that’s no joke.

So, seriously, take care of yourselves and each other. Don’t go out more than you need to. Wash your hands. Stop panic-buying essentials that we all need. And, stay safe.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!  My other blog.

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!


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