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Monday, November 29, 2010

Why the Exercise Not Working as Before?

Dear A. B.

Why doen't the "out of the box" exercise work like it did four days ago when I was feeling so good? R_____

Dear R______

I don't know why sometimes an exercise won't work and sometimes it will. I have several exercises and usually one of them will work. The other day however the "out of the box" didn't work for me either and I tried several exercises and none of them actually worked for me in that I could really concentrate on them instead of slipping into thinking about my depression. But I found that even keeping on trying with the exercises is better than giving up to your depression because even trying to use mind exercises is using your neocortex and helps take the edge off the pain. The sooner you get into physical activity the better because the combination of thinking objectively and physical action is stronger than just doing the mind exercises. Anything you do to distract yourself from depression works in some way to help, even thought it may not be as quick as at other times to get you out right away it will ultimately get you out. A. B. Curtiss

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Feeling Down Does Not Feel Good

Dear Ms Curtiss

Dear Mrs. Curtiss

The depression hits me yesterday and I am still working on it till today. I do not know why it takes longer time to disappear. R
Dear R______
It will pass. Get interested in your chores, your family, do something nice for your wife. You'll get over it when you concentrate on others or on your work. 

We forget that depression comes from our brain turning in the direction of downer thinking. We aren't always aware of this. When we realize we're depressed we believe that we are thinking negative thoughts because we feel negative. It's always the other way around. 

You have to insist on pushing your thinking to more positive imagery the minute you realize that you are down. Anything helps. Any thinking other than the thought you don't feel so good. Don't think about your feelings, think about anything else.

Down does not feel good. You don't want to push yourself to think better thoughts. Just do it anyway, in small ways. Think a little nursery rhyme, a dumb song. Then get to work at something, anything. Go outside and take a walk. Watch a movie. You need to distract your brain and get it off it's negative thinking track. It is not easy to do. The brain is stubborn and gets "dug in" to its thinking. You have to "dig in" and start pushing your brain around so it quits pushing you around. Just keep it up and your brain will soon let go of its negative direction. Depression is just a feeling. It will ultimately end. Get it to end sooner by jumping in the way of negative thoughts. Hold up another thought and say to the negative thought "You shall not pass." A. B. Curtiss

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Burn the Picture" Visualization

Dear AB, 

Thank you very much for your continued encouragements! 

Yes, I saw the entry and your experience with the "out/in the box" concept -- I agree it's excellent to use imagery to seperate depression from the self.  I ve been told before that if your mind brings up a negative experience from the past - frame it like it's a photograph and then burn that picture to take away the negative energy, which I find has worked for me at times.  

Thank you again for your good wishes, I will prevail no matter what! 

Kindest regards,Y______

Dear Y______

I agree that visualization is a great tool. I will add the "burn the picture" one to my kit bag of mind tricks. Thanks, A. B.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nervous and Upset During Job Interview

Dear A. B.

I had an interview the other day and I was nervous about it.  Somehow, after I met the woman who was interviewing me, I became even more nervous, and did a poor job of presenting myself.  I have thought of nothing else and am so embarrassed as a friend of ours recommended me. 

What will she tell him about me? She asked me a few questions and at one point I became flushed and began sweating.  I am so embarrassed.  I am normally outgoing and confident. I am qualified for the position, but found the atmosphere and professionalism of woman my age intimidating.

How can I stop this and WHY does it happen?

Thanks, L__________

Dear L________

Probably the first problem is that you were not expecting to get nervous so you didn't prepare yourself and have some self-support set up in case it happened. And, second, it is human nature to get flustered now and then. You can see how even politicians and commentators, who interview all the time, get flustered too. Public speakers sometimes screw up in front of an audience.

How can you stop it?

You can't stop being human.

If I were you I would chalk this up to "every dog has his day and this was not my day" and move on.

You can "do damage control" and "get closure"  if you want by admitting to your friend that it was an off day for you, and you royally screwed up the interview and are terribly embarrassed about it.

Forgive yourself for being human and move on. It's not the end of the world. We all need to be humbled now and then so we realize that, as smart as we think we are, we're just ordinary humans after all. And there's always the possibility that it wasn't as bad as you thought. But I have always found it more helpful to just figure it was as bad I as thought and go from there.

Since there will always be people who are ahead of us or behind us in some way, all of us are subject to being intimidated now and then. I can' t believe I used to find psychiatrists intimidating. Well, to be truthful, I used to find almost everybody intimidating because I was such a sucker for wanting everyone's good opinion. I got over most of this by getting in touch with my repressed fear (Chapter Ten, Depression is a Choice).

I still can occasionally find extremely wealthy women intimidating in some ways because they are a part of the world I know nothing about, and therefore I don't know how to maneuver myself around in a conversation and kind of "hold my end up" when the conversation turns to cruises "that only cost $50,000," African safaris with their “favorite guide," and golf club dues that are a "bargain at 10,000 a month." etc.

I have to really struggle for some common ground where I feel some sense of solidity. I remember talking to one very wealthy woman about my daughter's upcoming wedding and how I was so busy with the different aspects, etc. She responded that she would give me some advice as she had just finished with a “very successful wedding.”  Her solution was to hire a wedding planner and just turn everything over. "Then all you have to do is show up." So I was a little nonplussed since my daughter and I were trying to hold down expenses and obviously my idea of the kind of conversation we were having was not going to go anywhere. Why didn't I just "fess up" that money was an object. Hey, I have some pride, too.

As for your interview, if you want something from somebody, usually there will be a tension set up that could escalate. Remember, we are a herd animal, and it is hardwired into us that for our survival we must be "part of the herd." So this can trigger.

No matter what, what always saves us, is if it is possible to "just be ourselves." But when it comes to job interviews, the world is not set up that way, and sometimes we have to "put our best foot forward and impress people."  And sometimes we fail. Failing is honorable. What is not honorable is never putting our neck out and not risking ourselves. You tried and failed. It is a time to both take your lumps and give yourself credit for "putting yourself out there. Next time will be better because of this experience. Who knows, maybe you'll be a better person for having to go through it.

And another way to think of it, it could have been worse. You could have congratulated yourself on a great interview, and later found she wasn't at all impressed. Remember, there's no accounting for taste.

A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B
Thank you for the thoughtful response and so many options to consider.  I have taken comfort in that, at least, I did not do anything bad or immoral. 

What is with my turning red and heating up? I hate that most of all because it is visible that I am uncomfortable.  Can I learn to stop this? Any herb/supplement to de-anxiety myself before something?  

I can and should send the woman a "thank you for meeting with me" email.  Should I say anything about the bad interview?

Thanks again,  L____

You can tell her that you had an "off day" and don't think you were very impressive. The turning red and heating up are the body's natural reactions to stress chemicals. The only thing to do about it is not produce the stress chemicals in the first place. Learn some positive affirmations and anti-stress and relaxation exercises to calm yourself down when you first begin to feel under stress. A. B.

Dear A. B.

What would be your suggestion for a positive affirmation?  If I know it's from you maybe it'll work better.
Thanks, L.

Dear L______

"I can do this. My forces are with me."

Monday, November 22, 2010

One More for "In the Box"

I woke up with depression about 5 am and started to use the put depression "in the box" exercise. I really wasn't all that successful. The depression wouldn't go in. It was all enveloping. It was too huge. The pressure in my chest was hard and painful, the hopelessness was agony. But I kept at it. I tried a whole bunch of things, singing to myself. I tried four or five songs. I couldn't "get into" any of them. Then the clock struck 5:30.

Oh, well, I thought, " Do you want to think, or do you want to sleep?"  I can always do counting "1,2,3,4 who are we for." It's an old high school cheer.

But here's the thing. Just before I started the counting I realized that  the hopelessness was not there anymore. The physical symptoms were still there but they are not so bad once the hopelessness and despair is gone. They are much more bearable.  I did concentrate on the counting exercise and drifted off a couple of times to sleep but kept waking up. Now the physical symptoms were fading as well. I was actually feeling pretty good and enjoying lazing out in bed even though I wasn't sleeping.

So often in the morning I can't enjoy lying in bed when I wake up because I'm feeling depressed. But this time I had finished the depression before I got up. Then the clock struck 6 am and I decided it was time to get up and start my day.

For more than a half hour I wasn't successful with any particular exercise in that I couldn't concentrate on it very long. But I was concentrating on something objective. I was concentrating on ON DOING SOMETHING OTHER THAN COLLAPSING INTO MY SUFFERING . The concentration of keeping on trying one exercise after the other, and not ever giving up and, instead, concentrating on the depression, did the trick anyway. I wasn't successful with any one exercise. But I was successful in objective thinking, no matter how unorganized. After one hour I ended up 100% okay.

Sometimes I can get through depression faster than one hour because I either go back to sleep if it's really early, or if I get up and start doing my morning chores. But I'll gladly settle for an hour after the years and years of being stuck in depression for days or weeks.. 

A. B. Curtiss

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More "Depression in a Box"

Dear A.B., 

I ended up taking a sick leave from work 10 days ago - I had a bad breakdown and just could no longer push myself.  I stayed in bed for about a week - slept almost continuously and felt just a relief that I didn't need to push myself in that way any longer.   I know I have to be proactive so I decided to go to a Depression treatment center - that doesn’t rely on medication for a month from Wed –

I won't have any outside contact for the whole month.  At this stage, I need some ouside help to give structure to figure out what to do when I come out, with the support of family and friends, I think and hope it's the best option for me now.    Surprisingly, I don't feel as depressed and anxious now that the work pressure is gone.  But I know life must go on, and I need to construct my proper life on my own, and of course I'll never give up no matter what.     Y________

Dear Y________

I will be thinking about you. You sound thoroughly committed to helping yourself and that is a great start. If you read my blog you might remember that someone sent me an exercise that he uses to get out of depression. He puts depression “in a box,” and he thinks “outside the box.” It’s excellent for getting in touch with your “self” and differentiating your “self” from your depression.’

I’ve been using it myself. It’s very interesting. Once you put depression “in a box” then you can think “outside the box.” and decide what to do about the depression. Mainly it gives you a more graphic picture that you are not your depression. I recommend you try it. Last time I used it I had all sorts of ideas what I was going to do with depression now that it was captured "inside the box." Just imaging all the things I could do with it caused it to completely disappear into the objective thinking of the neocortex. All the neural activity just powered down in the subcortex.

Funny thing, but the box I put depression is in always the same. It’s an oblong, unpainted, rather shallow metal box kind of like a safety deposit box but a little bigger.

I wish you Godspeed. A. B. Curtiss

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Cannot Believe How Happiness Comes After all the Struggling

Dear Curtiss

I do not know how to thank you because I cannot believe how happiness changed my life suddenly after the struggling. 

Thanks So much again.R_______

Dear R________

You are welcome. But remember, as the I Ching counsels, "there’s no plain not followed by a slope." You will always have ups and downs, highs and lows. Just anticipate that another low will come sooner or later and you won’t have to be afraid because you are prepared, you know how to get out of it.

By the way I’m intrigued with your “out of the box” exercise and have been using it sometimes for my own  depression when it hits. It is a great device for immediately accessing the neocortex and when you do that, the sense of hopelessness and futility seem to fade immediately. Probably because, since you are putting depression in a box, obviously you cannot be helpless

The physical symptoms might continue for a while but the sense of hopelessness and futility are the most painful. When they are gone, the other is more like a toothache instead the end of “life as you know it."

A. B. Curtiss.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Makes Us Human?

Historian William H. McNeill says  that what makes us different from other forms of life is our capacity to invent a world of shared feelings and symbolic meanings, and then act upon them in concert
 We cannot separate ourselves out of our emotional connection with our.fellows very long and remain well-balanced and well-grounded because we need each other as part and parcel of our combined ongoing social community. This is one of the important things to remember when we are depressed. We must not take to  bed and pull the covers up over our heads.
We must not take the line of least resistance and adapt ourselves to our own depression or mania. We must adapt, instead, to the regular, ongoing, evolving, give-and-take society of our fellows.. our family, our workplace.  Adapting to the world outside our own brain always involves some fear and self-discomfort, and therefore we will need courage and persistence to move forward. We don't feel like going forward because depression robs us of our motivation, we don't feel like doing anything.
But  you should remember the importance of maintaining fellowship, even the modest ones such as the postman, the grocery clerk, the waitress, when you are suffering from depression. We can help each other. But we must get out there in the world again both to be helped and once we feel better to help someone else.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More "Out of the Box" Thinking

Yesterday I did not wake up depressed. But I was depressed when I woke up this morning so I decided to try the "out of the box" idea. It was very interesting. What it did was to involve me in a rational, back and forth, conversation with myself. I guess in a way I must converse somehow with myself anyway when I decide to do a song or counting exercise the minute I realize I'm depressed. But the conversation is so minimal that I never even realized, before, that I must have been having it. It seemed to me that I always just went directly to some dumb exercise by a quick unilateral decision. There was never any debate about it. Then I doubled down on the exercises when I got sidetracked by depression again, and continued to do that as long as the pain was bad, or until I took up my daily chores and then, in doing them, the depression always disappeared.

This time the conversation was more prolonged and obvious.

"Okay, so I'm depressed. So that means I'm ' in the box. So that means I need to think out of the box to connect to my "self."

"Okay, I'm connected. Now what?

(This was really interesting what I said to myself next.)

"So now you are thinking "out of the box" and deciding what you want to do about your depression that's "in the box."

"That's in the box, but I'm not in the box, right?"


(I then noticed , without verbalizing it in a conversational way with myself, that the hopelessness was no longer there. The mental anguish brought about by feelings of futility seemed gone and what remained was only the physical symptoms.Pressure and squeezing in the chest area, pain in the chest area, hard to breath, tight throat."

Then  the converstion  with myself continued.

"So the hopelessness and sense of futility is gone. This means that you can get the neocortex working without doing the exercises. So you can access your rational neocortex right away even when you're depressed.


But you still have the physical symptoms and if you don't want to endure them or be aware of their discomfort, you can do the mind exercises and just be aware of some dumb song. Or you could just get up and get dressed and get busy with yard work.

I got dressed, got myself some water, walked the dog, cut some roses for the house, and went out to do yard work. By the time I looked around for my hoe and shovel, the depression was totally gone.
A. B. Curtiss

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Being Depressed is Being "Inside the Box"

Dear Ms Curtiss

I decided to think of the " Inside the box" when I feel that i am in depression and in order to get out I have to think "out side the box" 

This helps me a lot in identifying my self.  Regards, R

Dear R________

What a great idea. I might use that myself. It's something that we shouldn't forget, our SELF. Our SELF is never depressed, only the subcortex-driven primal mind is depressed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More on the Blogger's Depression

To continue the post from yesterday. I went out to do the gardening for the morning, carrying with me some left over physical symptoms of the earlier depression that hadn't subsided completely, although the edge was off.. It was heavy work. I was digging trenches around my avocado trees to catch more water since rain is due Sunday and the trees are on a hill. I figure the more water I can retain from the rain, the less water I have to use to irrigate. By hard work I mean I was huffing and puffing when my hour was up and I came back in to prepare for my swim. There were no physical symptoms from the earlier depression. No pressure in the chest, no trouble with breathing. I was absolutely fine. I was absolutely happy.

It seems so strange to have depression come down and zap me into this really terrible place. And then, with absolutely nothing in my life changing, just by my getting to work and picking up my daily routine, the depression completely goes away. The rest of the day was fine, my evening was wonderful.

And I woke up around 4am and there was the black cloak thrown over me again. Despair, a black sense of futility, nothing's worth anything. It 's so painful. And yet I am able to keep a sense of awareness that this "may not be present reality," "this is just depression, remember," "I can get rid of it." All those things are true and yet the feeling is so pervasive that I can't "talk" myself out of it immediately. No matter how much I tell myself that it's just depression, it still hurts. I have to really turn my thinking completely away from it. I do the brainswitching exercises. A couple of times I had to tell myself "do you want to think or do you want to sleep." I did go back to sleep with the counting exercises and got up at 6am. The depression was still there but fainter.  I did some singing to myself as I dressed and went out to garden. Ten minutes after being outside I realized that, again, I was 100% okay. Talk about 24 hour cycles!

At night I always feel so wonderful I can't believe how bad I felt in the morning. I can remember feeling bad, but I can't "call back" the actual agonizing feeling. It's my experience that it is impossible to feel bad on purpose. Maybe I could get there, as an experiment, if I did a lot of negative thinking. But the habit is so ingrained in me to immediately stop negative thinking, thinking about things going wrong, or worrying about something. I just don't want to do that kind of experiment. Maybe it's like the Hippocratic Oath, "first, do no harm."

The pattern is always the same. I'll go to sleep and almost always wake up depressed.But the exercises always work. Even when I'm depressed I still think I'm in charge and so depression has no fear for me even though the feeling is fearful and agonizing. I can still separate out "me" from "how I feel." A. B. Curtiss

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Blog Writer's Depression

I thought I would get up early and write about how I felt and what I thought since I woke up depressed this morning. I didn't do any mind exercises. I thought it might be helpful if I just wrote about my own depression experience while I was in it instead of writing about it after I was out of it. As I was walking downstairs I was thinking, how do I feel, how would I describe it. This was not a HUGE depression, just a small one. I was thinking on a scale of ten, 1 being feeling really wonderful and 10 being in agony, I was like maybe 6 and a half,  maybe 7. Yucky and a little sick.

I should have gone straight to the computer but instead I got myself a drink of water and watered the plants on the way to the computer. Also I checked my email first.The reason I should have gone straight to my blog is because I'm already out of the worst of it. I got an email from a friend who wants to stop by today. So I answered her that I would be home. It got my thoughts going in the direction of planning for day.

Now that I actually am in the act of writing about my depression, the edge is off the worst of the horribleness. The hopelessness is completely gone. It kind of dissolved in the effort of my thinking how I was going to describe it and the competitive thoughts about the day ahead. Perhaps if you think about what you are doing and going to do it kind of puts the lie to hopelessness.. But it is interesting to see that it is the hopelessness and deep sense of futility that goes first. I didn't know that before. Now just the physical symptoms are left.

I remember how I described to myself how I was feeling as I walked downstairs but already the edge is off all of that. I still feel slightly nauseous, like I could throw up if I'm not careful. But it's not quite as sharp. But I can see how, if I continued very long with the thoughts about throwing up and how nauseous I feel I could really get sick. So I'm not going to think about that.

My chest is still very tight and it's still kind of hard to breathe because I feel a weight and pressure squeezing against my chest. But less and less am I able to stick with thinking about how I feel. Already these depressive thoughts are competing with other lines of thinking, I go from thinking about what I'm writing, thinking that I'm anticipating that my friend will be coming, and thinking that when I'm finished I need to get out before the sun really is out so I can do some weeding in the garden.

The physical symptoms are still here when I return my focus on them. But it's not really horrible now. It's just heavy and a little hard to breathe. Just a heavy feeling in my chest, a little painful but not too bad. I do notice how it saps my physical energy, kind of pulling my energy into some kind of black hole in my chest. I do notice a bit of fear in my throat. I could escalate that fear if I started dwelling on it so I am going to turn away from that line of thinking as well.

I'm going to get up now, take the remaining physical symptoms, heaviness and pressure in my chest, little bit of pain there, hard to breathe, a little fear in the back of my throat, I'm going to take a deep breath and go out and do some weeding. A. B. Curtiss

Sunday, November 14, 2010

There's No Downside to Learning How Your Brain Works

Dear Ms Curtiss 

My wife says she is not depressed. She stopped eating meat or any heavy meals the last two weeks because it causes her to have severe palpitation and hard breathing. 

My Question: is reading the books will help her in this case?? and the issue is she is not convinced she has anxiety and says this is a heart problems. your advice?

Dear R_________

There is no downside to learning how your brain works or how you can direct your thinking. Severe palpitation and hard breathing are two symptoms of anxiety and they are not normally caused by eating meat. Saying you are not depressed is not the same thing as saying you are happy. You told me that after numerous visits to the doctor they can find nothing wrong with her heart. If the doctors can find no heart problem then she might consider the possibility that her symptoms are caused by anxiety. What harm could befall her by reading your brainswitch books and she might learn something that will be helpful to her life. A. B. Curtiss