Monday, December 29, 2014

Living with depression

As the year winds down I find, like many, the urge to reflect. 2014 was not my worst year – it brought some terrific changes and people my way.

It also brought another bout with the disease of depression.

I don't mean the depressions that every North American experiences at some point – those terrible periods of time where the world is grey and nothing seems worth any effort. Those, while difficult to live through, lift after a few weeks when some sort of emotional/hormonal/situational balance is re-achieved.

The disease I combat – along with an estimated 1/10 adults – is one that has been in my family for at least three generations of which I know. My deepest desire in raising my son was to break the tradition, give him the tools to fight it and hopefully never set off whichever DNA strand now encodes it for our family.

Every now and then, with all the research and foresight at my disposal, I still lose a battle. I stop writing of any kind. I stop talking with friends and family. I cry secretly. I play solitaire obsessively. I assume I am invisible. I assume I am a burden to everyone, including myself.

Perhaps it is my depression that pushes me to mentor others to achieve their dreams. Or to be an "A" student. Or to find overcoming my fear of failure to be a great gift. Whatever the factors that have lead me to create this great life I know I have – with all the gratitude I feel to those who have helped me build it – I would not trade them if it meant not having this community in which I can often thrive. I just wish I'd found an easier route to achieve it J  I define surviving as looking forward vs. letting my past keep me from doing and feeling new things.

I won't get into the stigma this disease still carries – at work, with those who have never known true despair and questioned their ability to keep going through it, or the invisibility of the disease to both the outsider and person who feels invisible within their suffering… but please know that it is harder for me as a result of perceived stigmas to write about depression than it is to speak about being a survivor of abuse.

In the coming decades, I may or may not go another round with this horrible terror. I only wish as we reach 2015, that you might support those around you who suffer as I do and can't articulate what help might look like as they simply struggle to get out of bed at all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why fear failure?

It's normal to not want to fail. To actively fear failure is not the same thing.

No one likes to try and then not succeed but we all realize it is part of the learning curve. You can't hop on a bike and balance on the first try. You can't ice skate without practice. You can't run a large, complex project without falling off the rails a few times along the way. (same goes for parenting)

Yet there is a growing sense in our careers  (and sometimes personal lives) that we must avoid failure at all cost." Ick.  Mistakes will happen; try to not make the same one twice.

This avoidance turns into a fear of failure that is different from doing one's best to ensure few errors happen through good planning and open conversation.  Fearing failure means that instead of taking measured risks and knowing there is a tolerated margin of error, one defers decisions or refuses all risk resulting in a poorer, more limited outcome.

Fear is not always a bad thing. Making driving choices because mistakes could be fatal is a good idea. In other, less life/death instances, ask "what's the worst thing that could happen?"  Chances are you could deal with it, plan for it or… perhaps it is just too outrageous/irrational a fear to have a real chance of occurring.  If everyone got fired or unloved for every mistake, there's be lots more unemployed lonely folks out there…