An Interesting Self-Analysis

February 16, 2011

So, my mother finally seems to have accepted that I have depression and not just a "happiness problem" or a spiritual shortfall. The last few times I have talked to her on the phone, she has asked me how I am feeling and has asked if I need counseling or medication. (In the great scheme of things, I probably need both, but I digress...) A few days ago, she sent me an email that intrigued me. It's the Duke University study on “peace of mind.” I read it and then compared it to my experience.

Factors found to contribute 
greatly to emotional and mental stability are:

1. The absence of suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge was a major factor in unhappiness.

I try not to hold grudges. I know they're dangerous. But sometimes I find myself getting angry over the way people have treated me in the past. Even when I think I'm over things, the bad feelings often come back to bite me when I least expect them.

2. Not living in the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression.

It's not the past that has me up in arms; it's the present. I've enjoyed pretty good success in the past, so I feel like I should be accomplishing more now.

3. Not wasting time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change. Cooperate with life, instead of trying to run away from it.

I think this describes me. I'm rarely shocked when life goes south. However, I do spend a lot of time expressing my opinion on political matters. I get upset when people supposedly smarter than me cannot solve obvious problems. Constantly spewing about it, though, probably isn't good.

4. Force yourself to stay involved with the living world. Resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress.

My husband and I just had a conversation about this. I DO need time to interact with other adults. Withdrawing only makes things worse in the long run. I'm going to start going out on Thursday nights to my favorite bead store and make jewelry with other women.

5. Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.

I try. I swear I do. I know I have it good compared to others. Very good.

6. Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues—love, humor, compassion and loyalty.

This is where I believe I excel. The old-fashioned virtues enable self respect.

7. Do not expect too much of yourself. When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.

Ouch. This is definitely a sticking point for me. If I had a list of all the things I think I should accomplish everyday, I'd have to move to Mongolia and live in a yurt with the Dali Lama. I often wish I could be the kind of super-productive, disciplined person who, at any time, has a spotless house, a pampered child, an exciting marriage, a multi-million dollar career, and three awards on my shelf. And then I have to remind myself that no one probably has all of those things at one time. It isn't easy.

8. Find something bigger than yourself to believe in. Self-centered egotistical people score lowest in any test for measuring happiness.

Those Duke people might as well cut me off at the knees with a chainsaw. Deep down, I'm an arrogant wench. The people closest to me know this, and I know my ego affects the way I perceive myself, my accomplishments, and my environment. I'm not sure if I should just accept this about myself or really strive to change it. Trust me, I've been knocked off my own pedestal a few times in the past, and I doubt those will be the only instances. I'm thankful, in part, for my failures, because they help keep my head in reality.

How do you measure up on the "peace of mind" scale?

Navy Blues

February 7, 2011

This week, I'm hating the Navy. Normally, I'm fine with military life. It's been pretty good to us. When my husband and I married over three years ago, we pretty much had nothing to our names. Now we have a house, two new cars (one paid in full), a high-def television and furniture. But the Navy has been ticking me off lately and adding to my stress.

First of all, they can't handle a simple task like filing paperwork unless a generous amount of kissing up is involved. Back in early November, my husband applied for reenlistment, which comes with a pretty hefty bonus that will pay off our other car and rebuild our savings account. Well, the reenlistment office lost his paperwork. Twice. And then when my husband went to request his medical records to submit with his reenlistment package, he was told the records were lost. It took a week to find them. In the middle of all that, the guy in charge of reenlistment went on vacation for two weeks. Then when the paperwork finally went through, the office lost the approval notice and had to file a request for another one to be rushed in. When my husband asked about his reenlistment status last week, he was told that it should go through IN APRIL! Other sailors on the same ship have reenlisted and received their bonuses, start to finish, within a month.

So now that the holidays are over and we won't be seeing the bonus money for a while, we're managing our finances pretty tightly so we can pay off some bills and save some money. Except my husband's coworkers have some very sticky fingers and keep taking my husband's stuff, which has to be replaced. At first it was little things, like pens and thermoses. But last month it was my husband's virtually brand-new Navy parka that he had bought to keep from freezing to death on his mile-long walk from the parking lot to the ship. (As far as military clothing goes, it's about the most expensive item on the rack.) This week, it was the nice pair of boots he bought six months ago that should have lasted for another year. He actually had to get off of duty yesterday to go buy another pair. My husband receives a $300 clothing allowance about twice a year--which hardly begins to cover everything he's required to have--and the two items recently stolen from him are already in excess of that. You'd think that with morale being a concern on his ship right now that the people in charge would do more to discourage and punish theft, but it seems they couldn't care less. In fact, they recently had all the sailors in my husband's division give up half their assigned lockers so the lockers could be available for another use. So now these sailors don't have a secure place to store even half their stuff.

And then it gets worse: some first class petty officer thinks he should get special treatment because of his rank, so he demands the best duty shifts, which gets my husband (a second class) assigned to the worst shifts. The chiefs in charge often don't assign work until after lunch, making everyone stay late to get the work done, then scream at the sailors for being lazy and incompetent. The insanity just goes on and on, and I'm getting pretty sick of it. My poor husband comes home discouraged, exhausted, and depressed. Some days I feel like I can hardly take care of myself, and then I spend all day taking care of our son and all night soothing my husband. Sometimes, it's just too much. FTN

Gimme Three Steps

February 2, 2011

So I've been battling it out the past few weeks with a pretty bad bout of depression, and I think I'm finally starting to come around. The relief I felt after my floor-mopping therapy lasted a good full day, and then I was back to wanting to put my head through a window. Thank God for my best friend who helped me through it, despite being a thousand miles away in Chicago. What saved me after that was a cold I caught from my husband. Sounds silly, I know, but finally getting several full nights of sleep (thanks to NyQuil) did wonders for my state of mind. After that, I decided to let family problems work themselves out.

Now I'm back to working my way out of the fog. Except I get about three steps forward before I'm ready to take a couple of steps back. When did life become so scary? Why is it so hard to make decisions these days? Case in point: I'm right back to square one when it comes to my career. Again. This is quite literally the umpteenth time. I have a choice: I can find a good day-to-day job with the qualifications I have now, or go back to school for two years and try for a teaching position. Choice one means my best skills will probably be underutilized. Choice two means adding the expense of college tuition to babysitting fees for William's care, plus risking that a teaching career will be less fulfilling than I expect due to state budget cuts to education and the stress of teaching to standardized tests. This may be one of the most agonizing decisions I've ever made, and it's made even more agonizing by the thought that it should be an easy one. I just want to work and be happy.

Meanwhile, William is learning to walk. So far, he's managing about one step at a time, but two nights ago he struck out with three whole steps. I know he'll be off any day now, and it's so exciting. Just gimme three steps, baby!