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Kelly J. Cooper

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A Lack of Excitement [Sep. 20th, 2011|02:17 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
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Is this a thing? Something that everyone feels? I imagine so. I don't know if I've heard it articulated quite this way, but I feel like it's a thing... except... I dunno.

I keep feeling like I expected that my life would be more exciting. That more stuff would happen, perhaps happen TO me, and I'd have to do the adult-equivalent of a treasure hunt or research or an investigation to deal with those things.

It's not like I don't travel... I've been around the world. I've tried the foods of many countries, both here and abroad. (Sidebar irony: all 3 (or more) cases of food poisoning I've had in my life have been from eateries that were local to me at the time serving stereotypical "American" food.)

I talk to all sorts of people. I work retail, for goodness' sake. I used to go out a lot more than I do, but I still see concerts and plays and movies and artsy events and street parades and craft fairs.

I've done a VAST amount of medical research trying to diagnose or at least understand the complexities of my various conditions. I've also experienced a plethora of weird medical procedures, some a bit obscure, but nothing Frankesteinian. I haven't learned anything interesting or made any great breakthroughs... On the plus side, I haven't ended the world by accidentally creating zombies either.

Did I use up all my excitement by having an unconventional living situation in The Ranch? Or is there stuff I'm supposed to be doing to tap my allotment of exciting? Or is this part of middle age, this settling down thing? Or the restlessness... is that a mid-life crisis thing?

Of course I'm going through vast mental and personal upheaval, and depending on how the next few months go, I may have a dramatically different life ahead of me. But that's not the FUN kind of exciting I'm talking about. I'm not looking for the consequences of "may you live in interesting times" or anything like that.

I just feel... disappointed is probably the best word for it.

[User Picture]From: lillibet
2011-09-20 08:49 am (UTC)
This sounds like the depression part of your brain-equation talking.

Here's a thing: depressed people assess themselves and the world more accurately than other people do. That seems to be a maladaptive strategy. Thinking you're a little smarter, a little better looking than you actually are, that your partner is hotter, that your life is more exciting, that you are capable of doing things you're unlikely to accomplish in the timeframe allotted--that kind of error may be what helps many of us to keep going, to take on unlikely projects, to have a positive outlook that lets us look forward to The Next Thing.

Since you're already coping six ways from Sunday with the chemical health of your brain, maybe some kind of discipline about the stories you tell yourself is in order, to try to make positive emotional ruts in the brain. Or perhaps a gratitude project. Something generate more positive feelings about your life for your brain to work with.

I'm concerned that this could read as "Just tell yourself better stories!" which isn't the intention. But I think that positive emotional ruts and deliberately positive thinking can be another tool in the toolbox of mental health.

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[User Picture]From: lillibet
2011-09-20 01:13 pm (UTC)
Jonathan Carroll has an eerie ability to post relevant poetry in his blog on a regular basis. In case you're not reading it, here's today's:


by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-09-21 02:49 am (UTC)
I would never read anything you wrote here as dismissive. You've been spectacularly supportive, to the point where you are my Mom's favorite poster to my LJ.

I recognize that it is quite a challenge to tell myself better stories. I honestly don't even know how to improve my self-esteem, which has been crappy since the first grade, when other kids began working in earnest to destroy it. I have tried a Happiness Project and I've tried reading a book on how to learn to be an optimist & actually implementing some of the strategies, but I think my ADD got in the way with that one.

I just Googled "gratitude project" and found a bunch of info about that. That could be cool. Hmm.

I guess it's something that needs more consideration and perhaps addressing in therapy or via other strategies.
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[User Picture]From: lillibet
2011-09-21 10:17 am (UTC)
Whew! I'm really glad you know I'm in your corner.
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[User Picture]From: kimberlogic
2011-09-20 09:16 am (UTC)

This does sound a bit like depression or ...

Perhaps at least influenced a bit by it. However, Elizabeth hit on something that was a problem for me when I've felt similar - a therapist told me to simple tell myself better stories about my life. That did feel negating to me and didn't help. One of the things that the therapist said that did help: this is a somewhat common feeling that is often at the heart of what folks are feeling when they use the term "mid-life crisis" - a feeling of boredom or a feeling that you've missed out or are missing out on things, that everyone else is having a better/richer/exciting life.

For me, feeling that things aren't exciting or that my life isn't interesting, while often a part of depression, is generally sitting alongside depression - and the best I can express it is when I'm feeling that way that I'm in rut, stagnant somehow. And my ability to pursue new things or find ways to challenge myself or bring new excitement into my life has sometimes been hampered by, ironically, depression - or by situational constraints (lack of money, lack of time, illness, etc.) so the feeling can linger and make everything worse. I know this isn't really helping solve the issue for you but I hope that knowing it's not just you that feels this way counts for something. And I certainly understand that exciting or interesting is NOT the opposite of boring - i.e., life chaos isn't the type of excitement you're craving.

Recently (last week, I think, so really recently) I decided to try again, despite the chaos of my work schedule, family medical stuff and my own medical stuff, to reach out to friends and try to come up with a list of new things to do or try in order to combat my ongoing depression and frustration. When I sat down to make the list, I ended up with a few things that weren't new but have been fun or often spur some other action or curiosity in me. And I've tried some new things off the list already - mostly those have turned out to be underwhelming but I'm hopeful.

Is there anything you've been curious about or wanted to do or try that we could do together? Dinner or tea on Friday?

And boy, I should hire you to edit my comments - I'm hell with the run-on sentences. Oy.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-09-21 02:56 am (UTC)

Re: This does sound a bit like depression or ...

I don't necessarily feel like everyone else is having a better/richer/more exciting life. I mean, I used to feel like that all the time, especially when I was a kid & had to go to bed while the grown-ups stayed awake & hung out & talked & smoked & drank wine. (Ironically, I hate smoking & wine; but I still like staying up late talking.)

But I learned that it's sort of a mental trick that we do to ourselves. So I know that some people are having a better time than I am and I know some people are having a worse one.

Part of it is that I USED to have a better time of things; I used to do more fun stuff that I don't do anymore, mostly due to depression & money issues.

And part of it is leftover from too much SCOOBY DOO as a child and too many adventure stories & mysteries where perfectly normal people stumble into something strange, horrible, wonderful, and INTERESTING. But it doesn't really happen. And that's annoying.

I dunno. It needs thinking about. Thanks for helping me to ponder it. I emailed you about tea.
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[User Picture]From: drwex
2011-09-20 10:33 am (UTC)

Allow me to disagree

I don't think this is depression, if only because I had it too and spent a fair amount of time with a therapist trying to work through it.

The "is this all there is?" feeling is pretty common, at least in America. We are raised with and bathed in a culture of expectation. Somehow being a functional adult with a real house, good relationship(s), general life stability, etc get denigrated as 'boring' and something people ought to want to 'escape' from. Somehow we get inculcated with the notion that we ought to do exceptional things in order to be special and noticed. Knowing people who do and have done such things increases these feelings of disappointment and dissatisfaction.

It also leads us to look away from fundamental questions such as "are we happy?" and "are we doing well?" If the answers are no, then maybe it's better to focus on what would make us happy and feel we are doing well in our day-to-day lives rather than focusing on the lack of exceptionality and unique once-in-a-lifetime events.

About 8 years or so ago I made a deliberate choice to try and focus on the latter things which I label as: more stability, more happiness, more sense of well-being in my everyday.

As a result I doubt I'll ever change the world. But also as a result I think I'm a happier, nicer, and generally better person.

YMMV, as always.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-09-21 03:41 am (UTC)

Re: Allow me to disagree

Hmm. This actually sounds like you told yourself better stories... or shifted your perspective such that the stories flowing around you -- and the stories that you are in -- are more satisfying.

I guess I'm actually missing stability, happiness, & well-being in my daily life and I don't know how to get back there. And it's manifesting as restlessness, disappointment, & dissatisfaction.

I know I have stuff to work on, but I'm trying to figure out what it is. Hence postings like this, where I'm checking in on the normality and looking for perspective. It doesn't help that I have a great deal of difficulty getting perspective on myself.
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[User Picture]From: drwex
2011-09-21 07:27 am (UTC)

Re: Allow me to disagree

This actually sounds like you told yourself better stories... or shifted your perspective such that the stories flowing around you

I think that's probably true. It's hard to sit here as I see the world now and remember with crystal clarity how I saw the world back then. I do remember expressing feelings like you expressed in this posting.

I'm actually missing stability, happiness, & well-being in my daily life and I don't know how to get back there

I nod in understanding and sympathy. I'm just wondering which way the arrow flows.

it's manifesting as restlessness, disappointment, & dissatisfaction

To be clearer: does focusing on your restlessness, disappointment and dissatisfaction increase your lack of stability/happiness/well-being?

I hope I'm being of some help with your attempt to check. I'm certainly not trying to lay out a right/wrong scenario.
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[User Picture]From: miss_chance
2011-09-20 12:20 pm (UTC)
Have you looked into "dysthymia?" I learned about it when someone I love was diagnosed with "double-depression," which is apparently how it usually gets noticed. This person went for treatment for a major-depressive incident and a therapist recognized the symptoms of a chronic dysthymia underneath the critical depressive episode. Apparently it can be treated, but has to be treated differently and on a longer time-frame then "regular" depression.

Anyway, I don't know if it's the same thing you're describing at all, but it does sound like, yes, it's a thing that happens and maybe can even be treated with the right person.

I wish you luck.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-09-21 04:01 am (UTC)
Thank you for telling me about that. I didn't realize they differentiated so clearly between an depressive episode and dysthymia. I think dysthymia is probably my official diagnosis... chronic low-grade depression is what my various therapists have called it.

The really bad patch in the last few years seems to have been due to a particularly negative reaction to the generic Paxil I was on. It's a slow roll to get to any particular mental place... upwards of 6 months. So it took me a long time to get to the really bad place, a long time to notice, a long time to do something about it, and a long time to come back.

Consequently, I've changed up my psychiatric care quite a bit in the last 4 years. I talked to my doctor, got a referral to a neurologist & went thru 2 sleep studies that resulted in him sending me to a psychiatrist. Of the six from the list of sleep-specialist psychiatrists, one agreed to see me and I've been working with her for... a year? No, coming up on two years, I think.

When I started working with her, I left the psychiatric nurse who put me on the Paxil & ignored the warning signs that it was doing more harm than good. The new lady went through a bunch of medications (at around 3 months each) before we figured out first, that I have ADHD and second, that I have anxiety (or rather that my depression seems to be anxiety-based). Both of these facts impacted the type of medication I should be trying & switching to generic Welbutrin seems to have helped dramatically with my depression. She's hoping to find some ADHD medication that will wake me up enough during the day to fix my sleep at night. I have my doubts.

I also saw a therapist from November 2009-July 2010, when she had to take a year-long break to deal with medical issues. I haven't had a regular therapist since, but I'm looking for someone who can help me with the ADHD effects on my life (without any luck in finding someone).

For all of this crap I've gone through, it's helping, but it seems like I do most of the figuring stuff out myself, so it takes years because I don't have a medical degree. The pattern seems to be that first, I have to notice a symptom or behavior. Then I chew on it & research it & talk about it and eventually that results in a break-through. But it seems like it's always one step forward, ten steps back & I'm exhausted.

Anyway, we're on the chewing & talking stage right now for something that might be something or it might be nothing (well, not nothing, but part of other things already known).
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[User Picture]From: catness
2011-09-20 01:10 pm (UTC)
I find this to be true in my life when I'm not paying attention to the things I do that are awesome.

The things I do that are awesome are *small*, though, like riding on a boat in the harbor or going to the beach. I mean, I do BIG awesome things, too, like selling out clubs and dancing like a fool in front of people and travel and stuff... but ALL of these things are awesome things that I allow to get buried in the minutiae of getting them done.

If I focus on all the shit I need to pack into the car in order to be able to sit comfortably on the beach, I won't remember how warm the sun was or how lovely the waves. It's stupid, but it's how I think. I'll only remember how draining the prep was and lose sight of the payoff, unless I work really really hard on re-focusing.

I spend a lot of time saying to myself, "I'll be happy when I get this done, and meet that goal, and have whatsit accomplished, and now I must focus all my energy on why I'm not getting those things done." That's when joy gets sucked out of the world, and I have an uninteresting life. Yuck.

Basically, if I'm having an uninteresting life, it's totally my fault, NOT because there isn't something amazing in every single day, but because I didn't open my eyes.

And then I have to spend some effort not beating myself up about forgetting to keep them open. ;)
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-09-21 04:04 am (UTC)
I think part of the problem is that I'm not doing anything that is awesome, large or small. I need to do more things, but I lack the energy and finances to do them.

I really like your point about getting sucked into the minutiae of getting things done and burying the payoff. I think I need to spend more time refocusing because I suspect I do this too.

And also more time doing more stuff.

Stupid depression.
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