Sunday, June 20, 2010

Self-fulfilling prophecies

The real problem with depression is the self-fulfilling prophecies that come with it.  I've identified two distinct prophecies.  Neither are helpful, but the second one is the real killer.

Generally speaking, depression is something that I feel coming on.  Sometimes it comes slowly.  Sometimes it comes quickly.  But at some point before I really am depressed I say to myself, "I can feel a depressive funk coming on."

The fact that I know it is coming should give me the opportunity to do something about it.  But it doesn't work that way.  That feeling of foreboding only happens after I have crossed the event horizon.  That makes the feeling of depression coming a depressing thing in and of itself.

That's the first type of self-fulfilling prophecy.  The feeling of depression coming soon make me depressed.  It's annoying, but tolerable.

The second type of self-fulfilling prophecy is much harder to live with.

Depression is filled with all sorts of negative self-talk.  For instance:

  • "I'm not very smart."
  • "No one wants to be around me."
  • "They're not going to hire me."
  • "I'm not going to do well on this interview."

And because of the depression these things are more true than they would be otherwise.  Depression is a dark cloud that permeates the room where the depressed person is.  No one wants to be around that.

I've been pretty depressed for the last couple of weeks.  I've noticed something and done some experiments on myself during this time.  It's just one data point, but if it bears out then this could prove a large part of the negative self-talk.

I have a little hand-held chess computer.  I play 2-3 games a day, and I have been playing that often for the last several months.  The game has 100 or more skill levels.  Before this last bout of depression started I reached a point where I was beating level 60 almost every game.  I moved up to level 61, and I was winning about half of the games.

Once the depression set in my chess skills cratered.  I've been lowering the skill level, trying to find a level I can beat.  I'm on 48 and still losing every game.

Part of chess is imagining what the other player is trying to do (even the chess computer has an idea of what moves it would like to play next.)  I feel like that part of my game is what is failing me.  I can't think through what the computer wants to do so I can avoid it.  I'm not sure if it is just concentration that I'm lacking.  Or maybe it is some sort of conceptual-thinking region of my brain that is out to lunch.

I have a dozen blog posts started on some interesting topics.  The oil spill.  The debt crisis.  The coming digital economy.  But I can't finish them.  I can't think well enough to complete the arguments.  Oh, I can write sentences.  But I can see that the ideas are clearly incomplete.  And I can't finish them.

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