I’ve been depressed. You?

vangogh1I’ve been depressed. 

Telling you this will blow my chances of running for president, but what the hell: I have been clinically depressed for the last two years. It’s a form of going crazy. I lost interest in my work, stopped blogging and taking photos. I became a near-hermit. 

dogI want to share my experiences with you so that if the black dog visits you or one of your friends, you’ll recognize it for what it is and take appropriate action. No one deserves to go through life feeling shitty and that’s precisely what depression can do to you. Everything is gloomy. Nothing seems worthwhile. Yet this condition is treatable.

Before going on, let me explain that I am no longer depressed. Hallelujah! I have found my cure and have returned to my normal jovial set-point. Let’s grab a beer sometime.

How do you recognize depression? Lots of us are sad. Pollsters tell us more than half of all workers are disengaged. Many jobs are gone forever; PhDs are pouring the lattes at Starbucks. DoD is in an intractable war with Muslims. The maw between rich and poor widens daily. Technology has accelerated the business cycle into a frenzied pace few can maintain. There’s plenty of sadness to go around.

Depression is more than sadness, however. It doesn’t have a target. It’s irrational and self-destructive. When my last episode came on two years ago, I could sense pulling down the shades on optimism. I was slower, weaker, and lacked energy and the ability to focus. It was physical (the juices in my head) and mental (the belief-set that controls my interpretation of the world).

The acid test: Do you think of taking your life? If you think yes, go to the doctor. Get help. You’re depressed. Or maybe you have a suppressed anxiety disorder (I did.) These two often go hand in hand. Happily, both get better with the same treatment. You’ll recognize you’re getting better when suicide disappears as an option.

My neurologist will tell you that depression is a neurological condition. No amount of trying hard and talk therapy is going to change it, any more than they’ll heal broken bones. Here, take these blue pills and if that doesn’t work, we have some yellow ones. Of course, it makes sense to follow general principles of good health: get enough sleep and exercise.

My cognitive behavioral psychologist tells our therapy group that drugs are largely ineffective. This is psychological condition. Emotions are the products of thinking. Get your thinking straight and your feelings will follow. Let’s look at what’s really going on. Got that? Say it back to me.

Stanford’s David Burns is the author of Feeling Good and cognitive behavioral therapy’s leading advocate. Watch this video not only to understand Burns’ work but to cry your eyes out at the surprise ending.

A few months ago the cloud of doom lifted from my shoulders. I was no longer eternally bummed out. The depression was fading away. 

I dropped out of the therapy group which was beginning to wear on my nerves by this point anyway. Then the psychologist and I agreed I no longer needed his treatment.

My restoration to normalcy is the result of a lot of people, a lot of reading, and a lot of pushing the boulder up the hill. However, I attribute 95% of my change in mood to drugs.

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During an episode similar to this twenty years ago, Prozac did nothing for me but Zoloft restored me for years. Two years ago, I re-tried Zoloft but had grown immune to it.

The doctor and I dropped into a rhythm of taking a few weeks to build up to a proper dose of a drug, try it long enough to know it’s not working, then take a few more weeks to wean and clean out the system for the next round. Again and again and again.

In the last four years, I’ve been prescribed these drugs for depression and/or ADHD.

  • Wellbutrin
  • Straterra
  • Nuvigil
  • Zoloft
  • Effexor
  • Latuda
  • Abilify
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Dexedrine
  • Adderall
  • Provigil
  • Brintellix
  • Vibryd
  • L-Tyosin
  • Selegiline
  • Sertaline
  • Venlafxine

None of them did anything positive. Zilch! I was running low on hope after years of fruitless drug testing, but I remembered how Zoloft had once turned my life around.

“There’s one more drug to try,” said my neurologist. “It’s rarely used these days but it was actually the first anti-depressant. It can interact with your diet, for instance you can’t eat fermented foods. It’s called Monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAO-I.

Wikipedia reports:

Because of potentially lethal dietary and drug interactions, monoamine oxidase inhibitors have historically been reserved as a last line of treatment, used only when other classes of antidepressant drugs (for example selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants) have failed.[2] New research into MAOIs indicates that much of the concern over their dangerous dietary side effects stems from misconceptions and misinformation, and that despite proven effectiveness of this class of drugs, it is underutilized and misunderstood in the medical profession.[3] New research also questions the validity of the perceived severity of dietary reactions, which has historically been based on outdated research.[4]

The reason most of the restrictions on diet are bunk is that MAOIs can now be delivered with a patch, thus bypassing the liver. The current regulations were set for pills, not patches.

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Every evening I peel off the old patch, leaving a red mark behind for a day or two. I apply a new one to the other arm. Every morning I awake with a smile. This stuff works for me.

PatientsLikeMe has reports from people who have used these various drugs. What works wonders for one person sends the next screaming to the toilet.

My message for depression sufferers is to keep trying. The latest research recommends trying both drug and CBT treatment as well as community activity. See what works for you.

We who have wrestled the black dog seriously are sort of a secret society. Lots of people I’ve talked to begin with, “Yeah, when I was going through that….” All are open to helping one another. There’s camaraderie among people who have been there. Ask for advice. You’ll be surprised at how commonplace this is.

Wisdom 2.0: Mindfulness and business

Wisdom 2.0 Conference, San Francisco, February 27 – March 1.w21

Billed as “the intersection of wisdom and technology,” the Wisdom 2.0 conference drew 2,500 people who spent $625 for two and a half days of secular Buddhism.

I am interested in the interaction of mindfulness and business. Mindfulness – the opposite of mindlessness – is a natural component of Working Smarterw2-2

I generally sit in the front row at conferences. You can see better and often get to schmooze with speakers. But this time I opted for…w2-11

…the bean bag chairs in front of the front row. I spent most of the main stage sessions on my back, Mac balanced on my knees.

w2-5When I got tired of the main sessions, I’d head to Inspiration Village.

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Part of the Village was set up as summer camp. Let’s play.

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In the hallway outside, four Tibetan monks made an elaborate sand mandala. w2-10

Jack Kornfeld seemed so authentic and emotion-laden, not what I expected from a meditation leader. “Quiet your mind.”

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Richard Davidson spoke on Well-being as a Skill. He reported on progress in neuroscience, a field that has come a long way in 20 years. What’s important?

  • neuroplasticity. need to intentionally cultivate it. take advantage to if.
  • genomics. epigenetics: how genes are expressed. can change this through experience. eights hours of practice is enough to change the brain. had thought brain was fixed.
  • bidirectional highway between mind and body. how alterations in the body will feedback back to the brain. data are clear. cultivating well being will change the brain in ways that change the body.
  • we come into the world with innate basic goodness. Animals demonstrate basic goodness as well.

Well being is a skill. You can get better at it.

47% go through life without thinking about what they’re doing.They report as unhappy.

Which kinds of people need which type of practice?

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Sherry Turkle, advocate of face-to-face communications, ironically the only person to use PowerPoint, had this unscientific view of artificial reality. The slide drew applause.

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Eileen Fisher advised us all to shut our eyes and take a deep breath. She rang finger cymbals to bring us back.16065114033_26cc9aa59b_z

Eileen has a daily practice. At age 64, she feels more energetic than twenty years ago. Her aim: to feel totally in my body.

Her employees take two days a year for spiritual retreats.

Blackrock, at $4.7 trillion and 12,000 employees, is the world’s largest asset manager. They’ve popularized meditation sessions 30 minutes, taking place in conference rooms around the world. Employees receive weekly emails with tips. Mindfulness is a topic at leadership off sites.

How do we bridge the gap between mindfulness and business?

Starbucks is the “perfect environment for exploring mindfulness.”

Their mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

(see mission statement)

100% said the campaign was very effective. Partners are hungry for mindfulness. Able to make it real, mesh authentically with others.

Barristas love it. It’s taking a life of its own. Bubbles up, organic.

16477779127_836797b6dc_zNeed a break? Visit the Meditation Studio.

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Flashing lights and booming noises didn’t help me meditate. For $249, you can try it for yourself.16498921319_1ce0164f4d_z

BuHaGirl, which appears to make yoga bangles, was a major sponsor and had an exotic tent set up in the Inspiration Village.16065117023_24fd67b993_z

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The Mandala nears completion.

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Googler Chang-Meng Tan

Born at Google and based on brain science, SIY uses the practices of mindfulness to train Emotional Intelligence skills, leading to resilience, positive mindset, and centered leadership. In the midst of complexity, it’s about finding the inner capacity to create, to thrive, to lead. And it’s surprisingly fun. Backed by some of the world’s leading experts in neuroscience and mindfulness, SIY is changing thousands of lives in over a dozen countries.

With that vision in mind, Meng connected with Daniel Goleman and Jon Kabat Zinn to develop a unique program for Google. He then assembled a team that included mindfulness teachers, business executives and scientists. The Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program was born and launched, refined and tested over four years at Google, where it is currently one of the most popular, impactful and highly rated programs focused on wellbeing and sustainable high-performance.
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Mindfulness in Business

“Once upon a time I was young….  I joined a startup called Google.”

Mindfulness day. Search Inside Yourself.

All leaders in the world are wise and compassionate, thus creating the conditions for world peace

Need to define wisdom + compassion.

Wisdom.

  • Clarity and insight to know what to do.
  • Calm mind. Leadership: the ability to think under fire.
  • Self-awareness. Seeing beyond self

Compassion.

  • Beautiful intentions (do no harm, ahimsa). Generosity.
  • Loving kindness. (The wish for others to be happy). Create inner joy. It’s born of kindness. 
  • Compassionate action.

All of these are born of mindfulness. Self as process.

Business at its best is about helping people.

The best leader makes the team shine. They practice wisdom, impersonate

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Video of the event is here.

Does mindfulness have a place in business? Not yet but it’s inevitable.

pendulumThe focus of business is shifting from Institutions to Individuals. Mindfulness helps individuals perform better — and be happier and more fulfilled.

Mindfulness shares many values with Working Smarter, digital transformation, social business, and Product Knowledge Mastery, for example openness, transparency, and self-determination.

Years ago, a professor named Herbert Benson wrote a book and a compelling article in Harvard Business Review on The Relaxation Response. He met with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Here’s the message: repeat a mantra; assume a passive attitude. A best seller in 1975, this Buddhism-without-the-Buddha book has faded from the scene but it leaves us a valuable lesson: putting the mantra in English makes the practice of meditation more acceptable to business people. (Benson’s medical school colleague had refused t meet with the maharishi.)

Mindfulness will go mainstream; it’s that essential a practice. I don’t think it’s going to win executive hearts and minds until we separate it from the Tibetan monks, BuDaGirl bracelets, and Patchouli oil.

Ebbinghaus was a pessimist

ebbinghausMore than a hundred years ago, Hermann Ebbinghaus formulated the forgetting curve, which describes the relationship between memory and time. During a lecture, if your absorption rate is at 100 percent on day one, there is a 50-80 percent loss of learning from the second day onward, which is reduced to a retention rate of just 2-3 percent at the end of thirty days.

The forgetting curve is so unforgiving that if it applied to all learning, you’d question the value of investing time in learning at all. But Ebbinghaus’s findings don’t really apply to most learning situations.

Ebbinghaus measured the retention of random numbers. This is explicit knowledge. He learned by concentration, entirely on his own.

Ebbinghaus’s list of numbers to memorize don’t connect to anything else. Yet most learning is exactly that: connecting new concepts into existing frameworks.

Most learning comes from experience. I retain lessons learned in the company of doing things with others.

I wonder what the forgetting curve for tacit information looks like. I hope I can retain more than 3% of the lessons of experience I gain in concert with others.

Time and MindTime (2)

My previous post addressed time in general. Now I am am going to write about time and you: how you deal with time, how it helps you make progress and where it holds you back, and how it help or hurts your relationship with other people.

I’ll be drawing on nearly two decades of investigation by John Furey and his company, MindTime, that is summarized on the web and in this book:

itsabouttime

Your time perspective influences your every thought. How important is the past, which you can be certain of but may not be replicated going forward? How important is the now, which is the only point in time where you are going to actually take action? And how important are the uncertain opportunities of the future? The different weights we assign to past, present and future define who we are.

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This morning I answered a few questions online to determine my TimeStyle Profile, a “GPS for the Mind™, that measures the degree to which I utilize future, past, and present thinking perspectives. I tend to be a future thinker:

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MindTime can tell a lot about my thinking from my Profile. If you know me, you’ll probably agree that this description fits:

THINKING TEMPO

Quick and energetic.

THINKING GENERATES

Innovative ideas in high quantities, ingenuity, intuition, spontaneity and impulsiveness, an embrace of opportunities, exploration, and a drive toward change.
Dominant Future thinking manifests as – Vision, innovation, ingenuity, idea generation, spontaneity and impulsivity, an embrace of opportunities, exploration, and a drive toward change.

Method:

You are a visionary and are always on the lookout for new opportunities. Your fast-paced thinking tempo allows you to generate ideas easily, although your thoughts may be all over the place. You are known for innovation and ingenuity and you love to brainstorm. Your dynamic thinking tempo also makes you someone who is driven to explore: you are spontaneous and impulsive, a person who makes decisions quickly and who likes to keep your options open. You are generally outgoing and persuasive, cheerful and high spirited, energetic and active. You tend to start more than you can finish and are good at multi-tasking; however, you tend to wait until the last minute to meet a deadline. You are a natural and dynamic leader who manages others through inspiration.

Possible Challenges:

  • Completing what you’ve started is difficult, since you tend to start so much.
  • Living with the status quo is sometimes uncomfortable, as you are stimulated by change and inspired to participate in it.
  • Taking time to reflect on what you’ve heard and gathering your thoughts before speaking and taking action.
  • Sticking with a plan, since doing so means ignoring opportunities along the way.

Your Values
As someone who relies primarily on your Future thinking perspective, you tend to value change, innovation, opportunity, flexibility, spontaneity, and ideas. All of these are values that by their very nature embrace that which is to come and the possibilities that will unfold in the future. These values are idealistic and do not have the more concrete specific qualities of Past and Present. They are values that lift us individually, communally, and socially towards what we perceive to be a more hopeful and better tomorrow. They are the values that energize us to change the status quo.

Your View of the World

As someone who relies primarily on the Future perspective, your view of the world is an optimistic one. That’s because Future thinking is visionary thinking. It is about change, exploration, creativity, and the ability to see how the future can be (its potential), not how it should be (grounded in truth), or ought to be (its framework and structure). Future thinking means that you look at the world with eyes that are constantly seeking new opportunities, possibilities, and ideas.

Useful feedback

My Profile contains more information and advice than I am reporting here. In the past, I have taken the Myers-Briggs half a dozen times, the Birkman Instrument (twice), the Campbell Interest Survey (three times), the Strong, the Rorschach, Zimbardo’s instrument, and others. None of them gave me as useful information as the MindTime Profile.

One big problem with other personality tests and assessment frameworks is that they tell you about you as if you were in isolation. In organizations, it’s how you get along with other people that matters. Here’s how I compare to the 1,345 other people who have recently completed a profile:

group map

 

Next Steps

John Furey is going to present MindTime concepts to thirty of us at NextNow’s August 29th evening meeting in Berkeley. We plan to assess our time Profiles — and then identify our Profiles on our name badges. We’ll look at a composite for the group and talk about how that impacts our roles.

If you are interested in joining us, please email me to be put on the waiting list.