Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ever feel like a failure? Feel like nothing you do ever turns out? Feel like you're just not good enough to succeed in life? If any of these feelings or similar feelings pop into your head, read the following examples of people who have experienced "failure" and decide for yourself.

Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded.

FedEx founder Fred Smith received a grade of 'C' on college paper that de­scribed his concept for the overnight air service. His profes­sor wrote, " order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible."

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him hopeless as a composer.

Sir Winston Churchill took three years to get through eighth grade because of his troubles learning English grammar.

Colonel Sanders had the construction of a new road put him out of business in 1967. He went to over 1,000 places trying to sell his chicken recipe before he found a buyer interested in his 11 herbs and spices. Seven years later, at the age of 75, Colonel Sanders sold his fried chicken company for a finger-lickin' $15 million!

The Beatles were turned down by every major record company. In fact it was a small EMI subsidiary Parlaphone that was normally used to put out comedy records that finally took a chance on them after a chance meeting that Brian had with George Martin who was a producer but not A;R man at the label.

Diana Ross and the Supremes first record and it was a flop. They continued recording eight more records and all nine were failures.

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas. Disney also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.

Charles Darwin, father of the theory of evolution, gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat catching.” In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, “I was considered by my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.

In his teens Elvis Presley was still a very shy person, a "kid who had spent scarcely a night away from home in his nineteen years."[14] He was teased by his fellow classmates who threw "things at him - rotten fruit and stuff - because he was different, because he was quiet and he stuttered and he was a mama's boyHowever, at the beginning of his career, critics ridiculed Presley's manner of singing. For instance, on June 11, 1956, Time magazine called the singer "dreamboat Groaner Elvis ("Hi luh-huh-huh-huv-huv yew-hew") Presley."

Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and didn’t read until he was seven. His teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” He was expelled and refused admittance to Zurich Polytechnic School. The University of Bern turned down his Ph.D. dissertation as being irrelevant and fanciful.

The movie Star Wars was rejected by every movie studio in Hollywood before 20th-Century Fox finally produced it. It went on to be one of the largest grossing movies in film history.

Louis Pasteur was only a mediocre pupil in undergraduate studies and ranked 15 out of 22 in chemistry.

Thomas Edison's teachers said he was too stupid to learn anything.

When NFL running back Herschel Walker was in junior high school, he wanted to play football, but the coach told him he was too small. He advised young Herschel to go out for track instead. Never one to give up, he ignored the coach's advice and began an intensive training program to build himself up. Only a few years later, Herschel Walker won the Heisman trophy.

When General Douglas MacArthur applied for admission to West Point, he was turned down, not once but twice. But he tried a third time, was accepted and marched into the history books.

After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, said, “Can’t act! Slightly bald! Can dance a little!” Astaire kept that memo over the fireplace in his Beverly Hills home.

The father of the sculptor Rodin [The Thinker Statue] said, “I have an idiot for a son.” Described as the worst pupil in the school, Rodin failed three times to secure admittance to the school of art. His uncle called him uneducable.

Babe Ruth, considered by sports historians to be the greatest athlete of all time and famous for setting the home run record, also holds the record for strikeouts.

Eighteen publishers turned down Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, before Macmillan finally published it in 1970. By 1975 it had sold more than seven million copies in the U.S. alone.
Margaret Mitchell's classic Gone with the Wind was turned down by more than twenty-five publishers.

Richard Hooker worked for seven years on his humorous war novel, M*A*S*H, only to have it rejected by 21 publishers before Morrow decided to publish it. It became a runaway bestseller, spawning a blockbusting movie and highly successful television series.

When the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book was completed, it was turned down by thirty-three publishers in New York and another ninety at the American Booksellers Association convention in Anaheim, California, before Health Communications, Inc., finally agreed to publish it. The major New York publishers said, "It is too nicey-nice" and "Nobody wants to read a book of short little stories." Since that time more than 8 million copies of the original Chicken Soup for the Soul book have been sold. The series, which has grown to thirty-two titles, in thirty-one languages, has sold more than 53 million copies.

In 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after one performance. He told Presley, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere… son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” Elvis Presley went on to become the most popular singer in America.

Dr. Seuss' first children's book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected by twenty-seven publishers. The twenty-eighth publisher, Vanguard press, sold six million copies of the book.

Abe Lincoln: 1832 Lost job, Defeated for state legislature; 1833 Failed in business; 1835 Sweetheart died; 1836 Had nervous breakdown; 1838 Defeated for Speaker; 1843 Defeated for nomination for Congress; 1848 Lost renomination; 1849 Rejected for land officer; 1854 Defeated for U.S. Senate; 1856 Defeated for nomination for Vice President; 1858 Again defeated for U.S. Senate; 1860 Elected President!

Never give up believing in yourself, never stop trying and see so-called failures as what they are "learning and growth opportunities"

I also recommend reading Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell who goes into detail explaining that success isn't a result of simply a smart or amazing person, it's a result of hard work, opportunities, persistance and so many other things. If we believe successful people were simply born that way or never experienced set backs or failures we're failing to realize our own potential!

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Society That Breeds Dissatisfaction

Depression can be caused by so many things. No matter what causes your depression, it doesn't help that we live in a society that literally breeds unhappiness. Movies, television, advertising, magazines, media etc. all promote the idea that we cannot be happy unless we have that dazzling career, the perfect mate, that new sports car, the ideal house, designer clothes, etc. And of course no amount of stuff will be enough, media keeps wanting us to buy more because that's the way they make money. Also, it's a flawed notion because none of these things brings happiness, happiness can only be found in ourselves, not in outside sources. Our society also tends to glamorize things such as fame, money and power. Rather than recognizing the greatness of teachers, nurses, volunteers, housewives & househusbands, janitors or other hard working good people, our society worships professional athletes, rock stars, actors, or other "prestigious" careers such as doctors, lawyers or movie producers. It's another way in which we've literally been programmed to think that we must achieve greatness by these standards to be viewed as worthy and valuable. Then there's the glamorizing of looks, featuring air brushed emaciated models and other unrealistic ideas of what beauty is.

We must start deprogramming ourselves from this brainwashing, which is what it literally is. While we're in the process of doing this it's best to avoid as much programming as we can such as fashion magazines, commercials, tv programs and movies that portray these messages and even the people we associate with. Instead chose programs, books, magazines and people that value good qualities. Remind yourself daily that this programming and brainwashing is out there so you can recognize it when it starts to take a hold of you, avoid malls and other places that propogate shallow ideas of what makes a person valuable. Read books that discuss values that are more in line with true happiness and admire people for true goodness. There are lots of good programs, magazines and books out there but you must consciously seek them out while avoiding the toxic ones that seem more prevalent and accessible.

Money, fame, fortune, power, fancy cars or houses or clothes, prestigious careers or lifestyles will not bring you happiness and will not make you a better person. Happiness and being a good person have nothing to do with these societal ideals.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Saved My Life

My severe depression lasted about 3 1/2 years and included many suicide attempts as well as self-injury. Many things helped me improve my health, but there was one thing that I attribute as saving my life. It's the same thing that has been recognized by the medical community as being one of the MOST successful treatments for depression; Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT for short). Unfortunately it took me a long time to know what CBT was and to truly understand it. When I began to reap the benefits of it, I lamented that I didn't know or understand this tool earlier. Unfortunately I think it's rarely explained in simple terms to those with depression to use themselves. Hopefully this blog can help others understand it.

There are lots of books to give you fancy and impressive descriptions of CBT, but that's not what I care about. I care about helping others with depression, so my explanations are going to be very simplified and uncomplicated by clinical jargon. Basically, CBT is thinking positive, but more importantly researchers have learned that when we force ourselves to have positive thoughts (even if we don't feel like it, or hate doing it), we can literally reprogram our brain and change our brain chemistry. Through PET scans they've discovered that when people use CBT (or positive thinking exercises) that the brain actually changed through this process. I started reading positive affirmations by the author Louise Hay. I didn't feel like it when I started, I just read them. I didn't want to think positively, and the idea of trying was appalling. But slowly as I read her affirmations I found myself quickly becoming less resistant to it. As I started seeing improvements I bought CD's and DVDs and would put a CD player next to my bed. Often when I woke up feeling depressed I would turn on the CD. At first the words and phrases would annoy me, but I allowed myself to be annoyed and listened anyways, and slowly I turned from annoyed to feeling somewhat optimistic. I kept getting better and better. Sometimes I would stop doing it and find myself quickly spiraling downhill again, suddenly realizing that I had stopped reading or listening to these positive affirmations, and I would start again.

Many therapists and counselors utilize CBT, but they don't necessarily explain to us how they're doing it. I wish that they had explained it to me so that I could have been doing it outside of my counseling sessions as well. Many of them will point out when we're having a negative thinking pattern and how we can look at it more positively, often we don't even realize what they're doing, but they're trying to teach us to look at things from a positive manner instead of negative. It sounds simplistic, but it's the "fake it till you make it" principal. Similar to how scientists have discovered that if you fake a smile your brain doesn't know the difference between a genuine smile and a fake and will release the happy hormones either way; when you create positive thoughts, even if they aren't genuine, if you repeat them eventually you will start believing them.

I think the hardest thing about using CBT for yourself is that when you're depressed, positive thoughts seem impossible and annoying. My advice to anyone suffering depression is to start by reading the positive thoughts of others (i.e. Louise Hay) because this is easier than trying to create positive thoughts on your own. Also, allow yourself to be annoyed by the positive thoughts, but keep going. By accepting your annoyance, you can keep going on, if you don't accept it, you'll probably quit trying. Slowly, the annoyance will fade and you will reap the benefits of the positive affirmations. Take baby steps, start by reading some positive affirmations, then try writing some of your own, then try saying them out loud. Don't try to push yourself too hard right away, just like physical exercise pushing yourself too hard too soon can be detrimental.

Here's a great article on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Also, one of the best books to read on the subject is "Feeling Good" by David Burns, however, if you are the depressed person I recommend you simply get his "Feeling Good Workbook" and do the exercises which are easier than reading all the clinical stuff.

The biggest obstacle to overcoming depression

One of the biggest obstacles to overcoming depression is that when you're depressed you lose the ability to cope, and without the ability to cope it's almost impossible for you to take charge of your treatment and recovery. Just like how depression often leads to difficulty with day-to-day chores such as paying bills, doing housework or cooking, it equally impairs our ability to take control of our health. It's difficult to get the energy, motivation and desire to go to the doctors office, to read books and articles (or blogs!) and to do things that will help such as exercise or eating healthy. Having an advocate such as a friend or family member to help you is certainly the best way to help with this obstacle. Often times though they don't know what to do. If they can help you by taking the time to read on depression, and to help you take the steps that are recommended, this can be a huge help in breaking the depression cycle. Depression isn't that hard to overcome because we don't know how, but because depressed people don't have the ability to take the necessary steps. If you don't feel like you have anyone that can help you with your treatment, than it's good to remind yourself that you must consciously make an effort to take steps towards helping your depression even when you don't want to. When I first started doing positive affirmations and exercising, I hated it. However, I allowed myself to hate it and started off slowly (maybe 5 minutes a day) just doing it anyways. Taking babysteps and allowing yourself to acknowledge your discomfort may make it more palatable.

I'm currently working on a book that is a guide to depression with more simple and succint writing, shorter chapters and less clinical explanations. However, in the meantime I hope that my blog as well as those of many other brave people who are online sharing their experiences can bring comfort and companionship to all of those experiencing depression such as I have.

"Welcoming" your depression and losing the shame

Each persons experience with depression is different. I experienced a lot of shame simply about being depressed. I felt that this somehow made me weak, inferior or flawed. In turn, this shame made me more depressed. It took me about a year to simply accept that I was depressed an actually seek treatment for it. For many people like me, simple learning to accept the depression and lose the shame surrounding it is a difficult but vital step to take. Once I stopped being so ashamed of my depression I was able to more rapidly and successfully work on it with less pain.

My mother once found an article on depression that I recall bringing me a lot of relief. Ironically (since I'm a woman) it was on Men and depression. However, it brought me comfort because it talked about a number of very successful, smart, accomplished men who suffered from depression. This was an important thing for me because I felt like I was somehow flawed or weak for getting depressed, but after reading their stories I realized that depression often happened to very smart, capable and accomplished people. This might sound silly to some people, but it was extremely comforting to me.

If I could offer advice to those going through depression, I would definitely encourage people to not feel shameful over being depressed. Allowing yourself to be depressed and working in a positive way to overcome it rather than in shame or disappointment, you will be much more successful and in much less pain during the process.

Navigating Antidepressants

I'm a firm believer that antidepressants alone cannot cure depression or other mental health disorders, however, for me antidepressants were the first core component. Without the benefits I received from my antidepressant I was too depressed to even want to try other things to help, but with the medicine I improved enough to want to try other treatments such as exercise, healthy eating, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc. However, starting antidepressants isn't cut and dry and there are some important things to understand before you head down this road.

1. Doctors are not necessarily experts in which antidepressant is best for you. Most primary care physicians have very limited knowledge of the various antidepressants. Psychiatrists are a better option but even they have to play a little bit of a guessing game. The best thing to get the recommendations of a Psychiatrist but then research those suggestions yourself. Ask your Psychiatrist to list several antidepressants that may be useful to you and ask them the pros and cons to each one. I had anxiety and often doctors would recommend antidepressants that exacerbated anxiety without realizing it. I also had a negative reaction to Effexor and then had a doctor recommend an antidepressant that was in the same class (type) of drug as Effexor, when I pointed it out she quickly acknowledged that this would be a bad one to try.

2. When trying a new antidepressant be prepared for subtle side effects, monitor them and keep in mind that some side effects are only temporary when your body is adjusting to the medication. Many medications may cause side effects for a day up to a few weeks until your body is used to the medication. However, if the side effects are detrimental to you (increased suicidal or self harm tendencies) then you seek medical help immediately. Quitting an antidepressant cold turkey can sometimes create severe withdrawl symptoms, so you want to be under the supervision of a doctor when going off of a medication to determine how to best do so.

3. Feeling Better? Don't quit the medication. One of the most common tendencies for people taking new antidepressants is that they slowly and subtly start feeling better over the course of a couple weeks and quit taking the medication because they're feeling better. They often fail to realize that they're feeling better because the medication is working, this is because it happens subtly. I recommend you track your moods and though patterns on paper, and if it is improving over 2-3 weeks than your medication is being effective, if not you will want to consult your doctor to see if you should consider an alternative medication.

4. Supplement your antidepressant with other things! An antidepressant alone is not a complete fix for anything. It is highly recommended that people with depression also consider taking 5-htp which is the body's natural chemical that helps create seratonin, as well as Fish Oil which has been shown to aid in depression. However, you always want to consult your doctor first as supplements (including vitamins and herbs) still can interact with your antidepressant so you want to be sure that there are no contraindications for taking these supplements.

One of the most effective treatments for depression is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is essentially training yourself to think positively and not negatively. This may sound simple at first but it has been shown to physically change your brain chemistry. There are therapists that can help you with this process or you can read books (i.e. "Feeling Good"). I also recommend simply reading positive affirmations everyday such as those by Louise Hay. Even if you don't feel like doing it, these exercises can still work, just like physical exercise is often unpleasant but leads to good results and gets easier over time. This was the most instrumental treatment in getting me through my depression and suicidal thoughts.

Other things to supplement medication include exercise, social interaction (with trusted friends), music therapy, laughter (watch lots of comedies) and reducing stress.

I highly recommend you read up on antidepressants before simply following a doctor blindly. Here is a great article on antidepressants.
Also keep in mind that if you have the ability, it's a great idea to seek the opinion of more than one doctor or psychiatrist on which antidepressant is right for you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wanting to be Depressed

I think the biggest conundrum to depression is wanting to not be depressed. Ultimately you accept and relate to whatever frame of mind you find yourself in. When I'm depressed, I don't want to be not-depressed. I might not enjoy the depression, but it's what I relate to and it feels like it's where I belong, that's where I'm comfortable. I somehow think that if I get out of the depression I'll be part of some meaningless illusion of life being meaningful. It feels like I'll be lying to myself if somehow I escape. This makes it really hard to get out of the cycle; when you don't think you want to escape the cycle.

I'm not an advocate that anti-depressants are the end-all be-all, but I know that my medications are the only thing that lifted me up enough to WANT to get out my depression. This was key, because once I WANTED to get out of my depression I was motivated to do the hundreds of things to help facilitate this; music therapy, exercise, EFT, meditation, etc. But until I wanted to get over my depression, nothing in the world would help. And my medication was the key to this boost. On the other hand I feel that inevitably medication alone would have NEVER been enough. Also, much like other health related matters, I felt there were supplements that helped me in the long run as much as the anti-depressants (my anti-depressant helped within 2 weeks, whereas supplements took 6+ weeks). I take 5-HTP, Fish Oils, Flax Seed Oil and vitamin/antioxidant supplements as well as trying to eat healthier.

One word of caution though is how hard it can be to find the right prescription anti-depressant. I was luckier than many other people because it only took me two tries to find one that worked well for me, however, the first one I tried made my depression worse and increased my suicidal thoughts. After trying it I wanted to give up on trying others. Also, it came on subtly so I didn't realize immediately what was happening. When trying a new anti-depressant be vigilant in recognizing any signs of worsening symptoms.

Exercise has singlehandedly been the most beneficial treatment to my depression followed by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. My choice of CBT has been listening to CDs and DVDs by Louise Hay, without her I would probably be dead by now.