Category Archives: Fighting Depression

Day 24: Online money making and existentialism

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After declaring for what is now 24 days, my apparent love for the written word, i finally explored the possibility of monetizing my blogs – not this one of course; no one will read this. I write to please myself.

Making money through writing blogs is no easy task – as I find out. It is more like agriculture, where you sow and then wait to reap, all the while tending to the crops. It seems that blogs are nearly the same thing – with much more work involved. The key might be in clubbing together my own interests and the pandering to the public.

Anyhow, let’s talk about something else.

I started with the mindfulness method today – did the body scan first, followed by breathing meditation. The first one was a total flop – i fell asleep and the second was only a moderate succe….oops! I violated a cardinal rule of mindfulness – no judgement here. You don’t classify a practice as either good or bad. They are all neutral.

I find myself drifting into random imaginary situations and then reacting to them as if they were real. I had this habit before – one of my root behavioral traits leading upto depression. I am not saying that this is sign that I am going into depression soon – but this is a unhealthy habit anyway, I should get rid of it anyhow.

Let me explain what is happening – I don’t think the graduate student council at my university is doing a good job now – perhaps one day I could be the president of the council and bring greater vision into the organization and be a system that provides valuable support to the graduate student community. But there is this other guy DS who is somewhat of a jerk and is very active the community. Now, I haven’t even joined the organization and don’t have any exposure there. This guy has been there for two years now. I project my own fears on to him and so assume that he is after the post as well. So a conflict is for sure- we won’t agree, we fight and fight and I get angry at him for no reason. While everything else is totally fictitious, my reaction to it is completely real – I feel genuine anger, my teeth clench, my muscles tighten and my blood pressure rises. What a revelation – my mind, the very same mind with which I grasp the complex concepts of general relativity and write prosaic literature, cannot distinguish between a real and imaginary event. How can I be mad at someone – whom I hardly know – for something – that hasn’t even happened – for something that they “apparently” did? Isn’t that just plain stupid – all those doctors were right. The mind is a sucker when it comes to this distinction.

No wonder i get into this mess all the time – if fictitious event -> real emotion AND also real event -> real emotion; then where is the line? I do this a lot, I imagine up situations that don’t exist, put real people into it and then either fume at it, or get low – either way, I put myself to several minutes (sometimes several hours) of discomfort, because of this habit.

There is also a positive side to this. The ability to project into the future – and to be able to predict how people would react is often necessary. We call that ability good judgement. If I suppress that entirely then wouldn’t I also be a bad judge of people? Can I stave off all the bad stuff while keeping the good part?

This is a more general problem – I have prided in my imagination. Surely, if my thoughts are strong enough to produce real emotional resistance, then that means that I am a good imagineer ( copyright: Disney), ie, my stories and my constructs are that much real. I can therefore infuse life into my creations. However, the catch here is that the same ability is also at the root of many of my issues – not being able to live in the present.

Consider the general idea of existentialism – Live in the Here and Now. But one of the greater abilities of humanity is to be able to visualize the future, predict it to a certain extent and prepare for it. If we did not have this ability then we would not be any different from the rest of the animals around us, who simply follow their internal RAM and do not try to project into the future (or do so restrictively: think ants saving for the winter). But as human beings, our very own survival can depend on this ability. Can we give that of to live in the ‘Here’ and ‘Now’? Many modern success philosophies talk of ‘living in the present’ but does this mean not thinking about the future?

I believe that the correct approach should be “Do not live in the future” – ie, you are free to think about and consider your thoughts and ideas about the future – but draw a clear distinction between what are purely ideas and what is real. Does that sound right? Perhaps not entirely – No, not entirely, but definitely an idea.

Day 23: What is boredom?

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I was afflicted with the same disease today as yesterday – complete and absolute boredom. I had no motivation to do anything – I tried reading a book, moved on to tweaking dreamweaver, then lay down thinking I wanted to sleep, then got up and made some soup (My own proud invention). Then I decided that I wanted to write but ended u watching Alien (1979) again. Great movie by the way.

Also, didn’t go to the gym.

So, what’s happening Lord? I ask myself. I ask you. But who are you but nefarious optical fibers that link servers floating around in  a virtual universe? (Evasion, is the first step of a coward), Focus! What is happening to me?

That question itself is not well constructed.. “What is happening to me? ” – It first of all claims innocence on the part of “me” – I am not at fault, please help! A kind of passive of a crime by deigning helplessness. Nothing is happening to me – I am happening to myself. (Philosophizing, second step of a coward).

The lack of motivation is definitely true. The Gym is perhaps the foremost example. I find myself making constant excuses not to go to the gym. Once there, I simply can’t wait to get out. I fool around and then wait for either A or D to finish off so that I can run away with them. I finally found that Artisteer cannot be used to maintain a website, so that kind of rules out that program for the website. I had Dreamweaver installed on my brother’s laptop, but then found out that the heavy volume that I bought is only a Bible of Dreamweaver CS4 and does not really tell you how to learn with it. I feel like I have learned enough Java and there is no progress with it. The same with Tensors – reached till Ricci tensors and then proceeded no further. Bought 10 CD’s of the Bhagavad Gita and heard only one and a half. All my books are half read. I’m basically a ruminating cow now – with a full belly but no nutrition. The “hunger” that I  felt before is replaced by something much less defined – something that’s like a mid summer sun at high noon – oppressive and lethargic. Lethargy – just don’t know if that is the cause or the effect. All this when time lime 25 is approaching – a full 25% of my allotted time.

I am definitely bored. I could blame it on my stomach bug – it seems like i’m pregnant with a food baby all the time. But that won’t go away that easy – been the bane of my life for some time now.

Maybe, like Godin, I should wait, wait?

But I don’t wanna be bored. I loved it early, when I was full of energy and ethusiasm and looked forward to doing everything. Achieving a lot. How did things change? What set this up? Could it be because, i had kind of reached a stalemate in all my goals? Possibly. How do I get out of this?

I’ll sleep on it, and like Scarlett O Hara, will deal with it t0morrow!

Day 17: The ruminating cow

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I did not realize until today evening that my advisor’s silence has had a deep impact on me. I had been telling myself that even if he was not going to be very supportive when I get back, I shouldn’t pay a lot of attention to it. Graduate students should aim to get a lot of work done, not be best friends with their advisors. Moreover, I don’t even know why he is not responding. Perhaps, he thinks that I am suffering here and is too guilt ridden, maybe he has partial dementia now and does not remember who I am – who knows? Mindfulness, Gita and Covey all point out that we should not unnecessarily read into the things that people don’t say – such as this one. It is definitely a little weird that he is mum over there – but I am going overboard with my reaction. I am thinking in vengeful terms, of how I would get back, work very very hard, gain my advisors attention, convince him of how valuable I am, but then totally snub him. I’ll make sure he regrets the way he treats me, I imagine myself winning the pulitzer (bah!) and then we decides to throw a welcoming party for me, I would refuse – that should definitely teach him a lesson. The human mind works in weird ways.

Let me tell you a story:

two women – Alice and Lisa are regulars at the local Episcopal church. Lisa usually comes to the church just as Alice is leaving. After seeing each other a couple of times, they slowly begin chatting with each other, which soon becomes a regular thing. They began to look forward to the church simply so that they could see each other. Alice would wait so that she could see Lisa, and Lisa would always come a few minutes early so that they would have enough time to talk. One day as Lisa walked in all excited, Alice passed her in a rush without so much as looking at her. Lisa was naturally perplexed. Her mind began to spin webs – Alice does not like her anymore. She decided. This of course, could not have happened for no reason – Alice, as far as she knows, is sane. Lisa then remembered that Alice and herself had one mutual acquaintance, Eleanor. Now it so happened that Lisa and Eleanor were not in very good terms and Lisa was convinced in a lightning bolt of intuition that Eleanor must have said something to Alice that had made Alice to change her mind about Lisa. Lisa now hated Alice more than Eleanor, after all, Eleanor had reasons to hate Lisa, but what reason did Alice have? If Alice could change her mind in an instant, about someone whom she hardly knew based on something someone else had said – for which there was no proof, then Alice must surely be a not so respectable person?

The next day Alice did not come to the church. LIsa has been dreading seeing her, and rehearsed the scene ten thousand times in her mind – Alice would once again try to get past her, She would not even care and pretend as if she was totally cool. In fact, Lisa was dressed splendidly today – She was definitely cool!

On the third day, as Lisa was walking into the church, Alice came out and on seeing Lisa, ran over to hug her. To a stunned Lisa, she announced: “I’m so sorry we couldn’t talk the day before. I had this huge toothache, and could hardly open my mouth because of all the swelling. I hope you didn’t feel offended…”

Very often, our interpretations of other people’s action and words are only a reflection of our own insecurities and concerns. This might clearly be what is happening with my advisor. I should learn to calm down.

At the gym today, I found that my head was totally somewhere else, in the sense that my mind was full of thoughts about completely imaginary situations. About how I would return to Brown and have a meteoric rise in status (somehow) and then make everyone who “ill treated” me suffer and repent in envy.

I was so getting carried away that I did a small breathing exercise, while cycling! It wasn’t a miraculous transformation, but it worked for the time being.

This whole thing simply stands to remind me, that old patterns, especially mental attitudes and behaviors are easy to fall back into. And shows me very clearly how important it is to practice all those mindful awareness techniques, no matter how great I feel now.

Day 16: The fall back to ground state

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I had a few inklings today that perhaps my heightened sense of self awareness is giving away to a slow return of yesteryears. What I mean is that I am beginning to show a few trends that was used to before.

I met one of my old friends today – acquaintance would be a more appropriate term. It was a rather awkward meeting – it seemed that he had something at the back of his mind, and the conversation was totally forced (from my side). I couldn’t wait to get out. While on the bus ride back, I was silently contemplating everything. Then in the evening, I realized that my advisor was never going to reply to Prof Thomas about allowing to take the summer class on Material Science. It seems like he is determined not have anything to do with me during this time – he hasn’t responded to a single one of my own emails, not to mention the two emails from my father and all these emails from the office of continuing education. Now, he is by no means an irrational person – he does listen to you and is always considerate of your point of view. I honestly don’t understand what he is thinking now – and can’t explain his silence.

Of course he is disappointed – but my new found insights tell me that if I can get over the facts of my own last summer, he should be able to do it as well. I hope he won’t keep this in his mind – otherwise, we are going to have a completely different relationship once I get back. And it is always going to be tough especially if he doesn’t trust me completely or if continues to blame me.

He does blame me for not having gotten more work done. In my defense, I was sick – mentally of course. I could not have worked even if I wanted to. But then, there is no point trying to convince anyone now. In my experience, only somehow who has experience a mental illness first hand can understand someone else who is going through the same situation.

Day 3: The war of the websites

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So much for my enthusiasm yesterday. I really thought that I would have become a professional web designer by this time today – unfortunately there seems to be something that I am missing. I can’t seem to tweak the website that I have been given to get the graphic page that I want. I’m stuck for the day and I think I’ll take a break now. Maybe wait for S to get back to me so that I can drill him with more boring questions.

It was also my brother’s birthday today – always a happy occasion. I look back to all those times in the past when I was consumed with dread for my brother – true, he wasn’t ever as academically successful as I was and I have always felt it my responsibility to bring unto him an ‘awakening’ of some sort. I needn’t have worried, I was just projecting my own fears onto him. He’s still lazy but he has everything that’s needed to make it. I see it in the set of friends that he hangs out with, in the interactions that they have with each other, in the way he carries himself and in the way he treats and cares for other people. He is my brother after all! 🙂

Now that I am not working on the website for the time being, I opened up Stephen Covey‘s Seven habit’s of highly effective people. I have started reading the book some five times by now – but for many reasons has never completed it. This is quite unlike me – I never leave books incomplete – no matter how boring . This does not mean that I don’t think the book is great. Given that I have always been condescending towards these self help – management success books, I was quite struck by the quality of his thoughts. I think, for me, the best thing is that book does not claim instant success – He does not say do this and you’ll be rich tomorrow; practice this and you’ll be surrounded  by friends the next day. Instead, he argues for permanent qualities like character, honestly, sincerity and constant education – things that I myself hold dearly in my life. In fact, I am starting to find the Bhagavad Gita everywhere – have no doubt – the reasons our values remain time honored ‘values’ are because they work. Implementing them in our life is of course, neither easy nor rapid.

I want to one day be able to write about the Bhagavad Gita – at this point, I don’t think I know enough to be able to sermon anyone. In the very low probability event that someone accidentally stumbles on this site, I don’t wanna be seen spreading misinformation. But here are some of my thoughts on the Gita:

The context is this: There is about to be a great war, it’s the climax to one of the greatest epics in human history – the Mahabharata. The Pandavas after decades of ‘injustice’ are at war with the Kauravas who are also their first cousins. On the battle field, Arjun, the greatest warrior dude of the time, falls limp at the thought of having to slaughter all the people that he grew up with – there is also his grandfather, his teacher and other people who literally raised him. This is not a battle between nameless faceless people, this is a war among kith and kin. There is guaranteed to be all out sorrow in the end. Arjun tells his friend, charioteer and great soul Krishna his thoughts – he tells him that it would be better to be selfless at this point and give up right now, than to fight a losing battle. He tells krishna that he’d rather go back and live a hermit than to do this ‘crime’.

Now here’s the great paradox of the Gita – Arjun, by all standards – past and present; will be seen as a noble soul, who does not want to inflict suffering upon other people – who instead of fighting a bloody war, wants peace. Who doesn’t want peace? If Pakistan comes up tomorrow and tell’s India: lets’s not keep fighting and inflict disaster on both sides of the border. We give up – keep kashmir for yourself and let us focus on reviving our economies, teaching our poor and preparing for the future. Enjoy kashmir and good luck with it!! wouldn’t the international community upload Pakistan for it’s noble selfless act that put an end to a bloody war? (What if India were the one to make the same gesture? Would Indian’s think the same? Would the international community respond in the same manner? )

The fact that it was Arjun who raised this and not someone else has a lot of significance for the context: Arjun is part of the Pandavas who are the good guys and protagonists of the story, he is a very able warrior – perhaps the best, he has defeated almost everyone who he has come into contact with – this includes God’s, demon’s and other star warriors. The Kauravas are terrified of Arjun more than anyone else. If anyone can defeat the Kauravas by himself, it’s definitely this dude. So the fact that it is a great warrior who has raised this point has a lot of significance, if it had been anyone else, History would have judged him a coward, who perhaps spoke of his own fear of mortality than out of genuine compassion. This isn’t some puny weakling who is now wanting to avoid a war, but a great warrior.

Krishna responds differently, shocking Arjun. He enunciates the tenets of the Gita – which the way I see it is a philosophy to lead life and succeed emotionally and mentally. I should stop here – I don’t know much else to comment upon. But perhaps I should think of starting a blog on the Bhagavad Gita – maybe do one shloka a day – that would be a great intellectual feat and something that can genuinely help others. But this requires a lot of thought and planning. But doable of course.

This brings me to my own attraction for the Gita. You see, twice in my life I have fallen victim to depression – not the serious persistent kind, but the kind that is onset by an event and goes away in like a month. But during this time I am in terrible agony and thinks constantly of suicide. I now know why  I fall into these mental ‘traps’ and I find that the key is to be able to uplift myself mentally.  This is the task 5 that I have set forth on day 1. The Gita might be just the thing. Let’s see.

I should be writing a post on my depression soon – but it’s a personal post and is always a pain to get to. But let’s see, I can no longer avoid it.

Day 1: Things to do in the next One hundred days

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It seems like I have an awful lot of things to do in the next One hundred days. I am quite delighted that I don’t have moderately ambitions goals like “conquer the  world” or “derive the theory of Everything” in my list – it might be easier to teach my father to use the internet.

So let’s see:

  •  I definitely need to work on my body – I have come to love the sadistic feeling of pain and sweating it out at the gym. Also, I need to start now if I wanna have those six packs by the summer beach season. That reminds me to buy a protein pack. I have been using Gold Standard, but that thing is expensive here – maybe I should look around for  a less expensive local brand.
  •  I should definitely solve the problem of torsion of compound prismatic bars. This would make Prof AK quite happy and let him know that I have not wasted his or my time during the break. I would need to convince him that both I am Ok as well as give me something to say for the next four or five years. You see, I’m now on a medical break (Long Story) …and I am quite convinced that AK wasn’t delighted at the turn of events. The project was just shaping up when I just took off and left. I assume there would be a host of papers already published by the time I return – I’m not afterall the only one in the world working on Flexo-electricity. Solving this would be my deal breaker. I can hold my head high when I get back to Brown – and probably start on the experimentation right away. maybe have a paper by the MRS fall conference. Wait, Baby steps lord, baby steps..

This isn’t easy however, and would be the most comprehensive of my tasks – I’m from a materials background and this is a purely mechanics topic. I had famously flunked both the mechanics courses in my undergrad. If only I had known that mechanics would come to bite me in the ass years later….

So to do this task, I need to do the following subtasks:

  1.  Learn Solid mechanics – Professor Bower’s book might be the way to go. I need to open up the book and start reading…maybe I should print the whole thing out – I cannot read a 1000 page book directly from the screen – it might be easier to turn into a cyborg. So the hope is to be able to understand the torsion of prismatic bars  – I’m hoping to god that someone has actually derived it. I have no intentions of turning into a Timeschenko at this age. Brown doesn’t pay me enough
  2. Even with subtask 1, there is no actual closed form solution. This can only mean one thing – Abacus!! Apparently this is some kind of modeling software that would do all the thinking for me. But I had drilled Sean into doing this for me. But that a-hole did nothing! I mean NOTHING! but he did prove that there is no routine in Abacus to calculate strain gradients – the holy grail of flexo research. So I would need to write the subroutine by myself.  If I can do this, I might as well write the complete subroutine to be able to calculate the polarization values directly – this would be a small step for mechanics, but a giant leap for me. Go me!!
  3. With all of this, I might as well finite element analysis. Which apparently is the basis of all of modern mechanics.

I guess Ak would come and kiss me if I do all this. Maybe I should get two PhD’s for this, instead of one? Some I should look into. If only I had an identical twin brother. Damn random gene pairing rules.

But I should do this task. It is not only a great intellectual challenge, but might propel me from an average student to a research biggie. I should do this..i should ..

  • The short story collection – This is like the one of my oldest dreams. Something that I have wanted all my life. Seriously, I think that this is one of oldest of my unfulfilled dreams. Plus, if I just worked out in the gym and studied for my research it wouldn’t be a medical leave would it? 20 stories should ought to do it. I so far have one. I’m 5 % of the way there. Way to go Lord, way to Go!
  • Design the website – I have been wanting to design the AK group homepage since forever. This might I might actually be able to do it.

I return back having designed the website and having solved the torsion problem; AK would overflow with tears of joy. And I can forever look back and call this my Happy hour. I should do this. Plus, from what I see so far, this is kinda fun!

  •  Work on Depression methods – practice and perfect Wakeful meditation. I should do this, no question about it.
  • Also, learn General relativity ? – this involved tensors, manifolds and field equations. Ambitious but achievable

I guess that’s it. My stepping stones to greatness. I will elaborate on each of them in subsequent posts. There is a story behind each. It should be fun.

So there it is – 99 days to go! Come D-Day May 22, 2012!!!

LordGabbana! Prepare for greatness!!