If Accidents Occur

“Upon every accident, remember to turn toward yourself and inquire what faculty you have for it’s use. If you encounter a handsome person, you will find continence the faculty needed; if pain, then fortitude; if reviling, then patience. And when this, habituated, the phenomena of existence will not overwhelm you.” - Epictetus, Enchiridion

I feel frustrated. Some self-inflicted stupidity regarding my work leave of absence paperwork is holding up my short term disability request. The other night I got some additional news that I reacted poorly to. When you’re in the hospital or a treatment center you want to get back to your life and you want life to pause while in treatment. Regrettably, I have yet to find a pause button on life, and naps don’t count,

Epictetus would counsel patience and greater attention to detail on my part. Monday night I was in no mood to practice either, nor did I feel like changing my mood. I fell back on some poor coping skills because I didn’t want to muster the energy to shift my mindset. Well, not completely. I did run two miles on the elliptical. That helped to burn off a good amount of steam, but didn’t extinguish the source of heat.

I lost myself in a book, and, eventually, fell into a fitful sleep. This morning I marked my mood tracking app, Daylio, with a “meh”. I feel neither good, bad, or content; I exist in between emotional extremes. I’m sure I’ll feel better after breakfast and some time writing my book.

I definitely felt overpowered by the “phenomena of existence” that Epictetus discussed. I love that phrase because it encourages taking a moment to both experience life and to analyze it. I do not wish to feel upset over my circumstances, and it is okay to acknowledge feelings of frustrations, to feel then, and to allow them to pass.

Though I do not feel like it, I will try to maintain a positive mood today. Not a super positive mood, but a slightly more upbeat one. That is a lighter lift for my weary mind at the moment and it feels more doable.

Clear the Fog of War

Mondays and Thursdays are my best days, but Tuesdays afternoons and Saturday evenings are difficult for me.

February and March are when I feel the very best, but I tend to slip into a mild depression at the end of the lacrosse season in May.

I am more productive in the summer, but I am usually affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, in the late fall.

How do I know all this? I tracked my mood twice a day for two years with an app, iMoodJournal. Every week, I reviewed the data and noted low and high days. Then I recalled what happened on those days, and, very slowly, the bigger picture revealed itself to me.

Before I tracked my mood, I assumed that my depressive episodes were sporadic and random. Because of that, I further assumed that they were beyond my control. I felt trapped in a mental “fog of war,” a term that means, “uncertainty regarding one's own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign.”

“Can anyone see the enemy?”

“Can anyone see the enemy?”

It is terrifying, stumbling around in the dark; knowing an enemy lurks nearby. It is even more terrifying when the enemy is your own mind.

After my hospitalization in the fall of 2016, I decided to map my mind as well as I could. iMoodJournal and PocketCBT were tools I used to spy on my internal enemy that was intent on doing me harm.

By identifying the times when depression or anxiety were most likely to launch an assault; I had time to dig a mental foxhole.

I could gather supplies and call in reinforcements. All of this gave me the mental ability to say to my depression and anxiety:

“Come Get some!”

I do not win every battle, but I no longer feel like I’m losing the war. There is immense psychological relief that comes from preparation. Whether that is rehearsing a presentation, doing breathing exercises, or telling your friends, “It’s almost winter, I may need you on some bad days,” you bolster your defenses.

While we cannot control our circumstances, we can control our reaction to them. If we have a good idea of when circumstances will change, we can be prepared and be even more in control of ourselves.

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