Depression is a real challenge that I have to face in my work. I feel in our society that there is not as much support and resources that there could be, specifically when it comes to work and rehabilitation, and helping supporting people. For instance, I love writing and game development. Storytelling and world building, creating worlds and being able to share that with others who care or find value in it genuinely makes me feel happy. For others this is their art, or their music. I also love volunteering and working with animals and meeting new people, though the stimulus and my inability to focus on both my work and socialization can overwhelm me.
The Work Force
To this affect one thing I realized in my attempts to adapt and survive in a world that wasn’t quite made for me, is that people aren’t sensitive or aware or even capable with all their own pressures and daily stresses of understanding themselves let alone what you’re going through. I think even the average person could benefit from work built around their unique challenges, gifts and needs; the idea that a work schedule can be more flexible, where demand can be dealt with in increments. Where each human being is valued.
I remember one time trying to meet the high paced demands of work and having my boss sigh with exhaustion and say, “Look I have 50 other employees to look over, I don’t have the time to worry about your special needs.” I was slowly falling apart. The excitement and enthusiasm I had initially felt, getting to deliver pizzas and go door to door, meeting all the amazing people just turned into constant anxiety. Anxiety that I would not be able to meet the high demands, anxiety that I would mess up an order and get yelled at, anxiety that I would drive through a storm and due to not being properly trained not see that napkins and cups were requested, and it seems so long ago that now I’ve forgotten what it’s like to wake up feeling blue out of nowhere in tears, not wanting to get up. Where every step, every breath is a battle.
Starting a Business: Accommodating Your Own Needs
That doesn’t go away when you decide that you’re better off accommodating yourself and starting your own business. In fact it can almost seem like there is just as much pressure because now you’re no longer guaranteed a steady paycheck. So when you wake up one day and you’re staring at a mountain of all the things you have to do to get our start-up indie off the ground, and you can’t even get out of bed let alone stop crying for those who are really down about it. Here are some tips I have found to help me, both as a single parent, and an indie developer.
Tips To Cope With Down Days
Take your time
Slow and steady wins the race. It’s better to take your time and focus on quality, and getting things done one bit at a time. Work 5 minutes here, work 5 minutes there. Soon before you know it you’ll have finished your work.
Take a break
In between chipping away, take a break. Did you work hard yesterday, did you do your best? Just take a moment to be with yourself. Go for a walk, sit in the sunlight out in the back yard. Listen to a feel good meditation tape, or just let yourself cry. It’s OK, it’s just a break, it’s not forever. Honestly, I promise, it’s ok to take a day off.
Create an Overall Goal
I often give myself a deadline. I take everything I have to do and write some reasonable ideas, when I’d like to get those done, for example by the weekend; and then I write the final deadline for them. It’s amazing how when I am easy on myself and take breaks, I manage to make those goals more than when I am trying to cram and work nonstop even when I am emotionally and mentally stressed and feeling a low come on.
Do it in Bite-sized chunks
Dedicate 30 minutes here, maybe an hour there, and break it out throughout the day. Sometimes you are more productive by breaking an overall task into smaller pieces than doing the same all at once; it’s better than never doing it at all.
Create a Daily Goals List
Every morning I write a list of my goals for the day (sometimes I do it before bed). I log all my hours and what I’m doing related to those goals. I’ll log my time writing this blog, then I’ll log my time taking a break, I log every minute. It’s a habit now. I can look at when I took a break to handle my lows, to work with my children. How long I worked for, and what I got done, and what needs to be done. It helps.
Be Flexible & Patient with yourself
Part of having depression or any other mental illness is knowing sometimes you’re going to have bad days. We tend to be hardest on ourselves which can aggravate the depression as we start getting into low sense of self-worth and self-esteem. This job requires a light heart, openness, and flexibility.
Do your best within any given moment
“Some days, doing ‘the best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect on any front-and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.” – Mr. Rogers
Some days you’re going to do your best in that moment and it won’t be what your best was yesterday. Give yourself some slack. Push a deadline a few days to a week ahead, so long as you are doing it.
In The Four Agreements by Don Ruiz he says do your best, and that your best changes on any day depending on how you’re feeling.
Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. – Don Ruiz
Tomorrow’s a New Day
So what you didn’t get all you wanted to do in. Try again tomorrow, make this a motto that you’ll try and give it your best. And you’ll keep on trying. Push yourself to do that 5 minutes, that 30 minutes that hour, but don’t stop trying. Every morning is a great chance to reset and start over. Don’t think about yesterday and all that you didn’t get done, Today’s that day.
Do just one thing
Pick one thing off your to do list and then do it. Read about it, research it, integrate it. Do something related to it. If you can’t get out of bed, then lay in bed and scroll through your phone reading about indie game development or whatever your task of the day is. This applies to whatever you need to work on.
To date Meditation in the beginning is hard, and by hard I mean it’s not easy to learn to sit with yourself and your emotions, to not try to distract yourself from them but to face them head on. To that effect, I meditate every day. I aim for 1 hour, twice a day, but a lot of days I just get 30-20 minutes and on the worst days I only get 5 minutes in, but I try every single day. The goal is to build mental and emotional resilience and meditation is proven to help with this. Sometimes Mindfulness (also known as Vipassana or Zen Meditation) is too much for me right away, so I’ll do a loving-kindness meditation, Jack Kornfield’s guided meditations helps a lot, other times I listen to a meditation on manifestations, realities and goals, and other times I’m too tired to get out of bed so I just lay there and do deep breathing following my breath.
The first time I really did meditation and sat with the emotions and couldn’t escape I became suicidal. I was in a fit of tears trying to escape the pain. But with support and love, compassion and perseverance it became easier and easier.
Listen To Anything That Makes you Feel Good
I find in lieu of not having many supportive friends who are available that watching a favourite TV show, or someone funny online like French & Saunders or Ellen Degeneres; or listening to self-help feel good helps. But also thinking about how infinite the universe is and all small we are and timelessness helps me too. That’s different for others.
Mental Strength Training
Research meditation and mental endurance and strength training techniques. The mind and heart is a muscle, practice it a little bit every time.
Create a work environment that focuses on preventing lows, offers flexibility and ease, and is able to accommodate you when you do hit a really bad day.
Remove Negativity, Find a Community
I am a big believer in turning with openness and love to all things and people. But sometimes when I am sharing my thoughts on game development or on spiritual health and mental wellness, people I am talking to will put me down, or comment that they’re bored, or hate the subject, or they will really make a point to tell me what I am doing is stupid. These same people might be all I have for support and tend not to value me as a person.
Make it a habit to minimize contact with those people, love them anyway but if you need to and wherever you can, build a wall of protection. Create a buffer and reach out to communities for support. Find people who believe in your cause, who motivate you. And spend more time around them. If you don’t have a support system, find and build one. Make that a goal. And practice mental and emotional resilience in the meantime.
Letting It Out Safely
It’s usually while I am meditating that a lot of my feelings that I am suppressing or denying come out. Tears will roll from my eyes and I’ll admit that I am hurting. I’ve made a rule that when I am angry or hurting I do not vent or say any word that is not helpful or will only cause harm to another person. No matter if it’s directed or at them or no matter if I want to vent frustration. It usually only makes me feel better for a time offering short-term momentary relief, long-term however it damages and does more harm to good, and bites hard when it comes backback to me. So I write a letter in my journal describing all my pain and anger, and then work out the hurts underneath and what I really just want or need from someone or anyone. I then cry and ask for strength and really just sit with the pain and offer myself compassion. A lot of the times I’m frustrated with myself more than I am anyone else. Journaling privately helps me manage that pain and keep my interpersonal relationships in tact. It also keeps with my rule that I only say things that build people up constructively rather than trying to break them down destructively; and guess what that includes yourself. It helps to know where there’s emotions are coming from and what’s at the root, so if you need to cry then just let it all out, and get back up. It’s ok not to be ok or down sometimes.
OK so there’s plenty more that you can do, but these are the top things off the top of my head that I find help a lot. It most certainly helped me get through the day today.
Push comes to shove, if you’re finding that you’re really having a rough day in particular send an email. Share your story, explain a difficulty, and I’ll write back offering support, to rally you in your corner. I think sometimes knowing someone is listening with an empathetic ear helps.
How Society can Help
Mental & Emotional Support
I believe that there are a lot of situations where just having the emotional and mental support, the love and care to get through the day can be a tremendous help. People who are well rested and happier are better producers. Offering or having access to regular support especially for jobs that have a lot of pressure and demands, and rehabilitation services can really boost the quality of a person’s endurance.
In life we are going to meet a lot of different people who have various special needs. Developing empathy and emotional skills and equipping ourselves with the knowledge and unique needs of others can help. If we learn to understand what we’re dealing with then we’re more capable of leading and maximizing the success of our team. Teamwork is so incredibly important, and the traits and qualities of a Good Leader include the ability to know and understand people and maximize that success.
Now I know that in the western world, more often than not it’s traits of the sociopathic and uncaring leader that gets to the top. But the most productive organizations are the ones with the happiest workers, and happy workers feel good like they have their needs met. The ability to know that Jane just lost her mother or had a miscarriage, or Bob’s wife just left him, or maybe Kip struggles with depression and this is just a really bad day, can help us not just react to people but respond on a case by case basis.
It sounds like a lot to be compassionate, supporting, caring of your workers and to not just treat them like objects whose sole purpose is to produce for your team; to treat workers as human beings who lead real lives and have ups and downs, and to offer on-site support. That’s a big deal.
This also helps to learn how to deescalate problems rather than escalate them and solving unique problems as they come. This shows how you creatively deal with your jobs problems too.
Empathy & Understanding
I can’t say how often being told I am weird, giggled about and talked about behind my back, or told to my face I don’t understand you and I don’t want to dug deep. Having people in your life and being in an environment that wants to understand is incredibly helpful. This type of empathy and understanding is either something you’re born with or something you have to learn because our society values IQ over EQ, and definitely doesn’t seek to understand the other side or try to work with it to maximize support.
We have this it’s my way or the high way, from everything right down to our opinions and values, but it doesn’t have to be like this.
The more high demand and pressure a job takes the more support and nurturing I believe is needed. If the work environment you are in cares about you and your family, that you’re a mom or a Dad and even offers a day care and on-site learning especially for those tech people that’s amazing. Being supported through your life changes, and having that accommodated is wicked awesome. To grow your family and your business. Yeah I’m talking about Google as one of the prime examples for how such a business can work.
If you go over to Google’s Benefits they truly work to adapt around what you’re needs are. And offer food and the opportunity and encouragement to learn more. This should be something that is available across the various professions.
Bonus: Free Food
Some people skip breakfast, or can’t afford lunch, especially in jobs that have low wage. I remember as a pizza delivery driver, I met some people who could barely pay their bills. One woman in particular had a mental illness and would steal food because she was hungry. I watched them clean the floor and drop a good pizza, then throw it away and say you couldn’t eat it. I watched them get an order wrong or have an order returned and instead of offering that pizza to their hungry low-wage workers they put it all in the back and donated it to the homeless. But offered discount to their workers. I remember being starving sometimes and having to get the right manager to say, yes you can have a pizza. Offering snacks or food that are available for free can help people, esp. those who struggle with blood sugars. Ever heard of “Hangry”, it’s a real thing.
I am no stranger to having your life depend on your work; while having little to no income. You still have to take it easy on yourself, and be good to yourself. Follow your dream with passion and perseverance and always strive to do better. Read about inspirational stories like J.K Rowling, watch the Pursuit of Happiness. Realize that the only thing standing between you and your dream is learning your craft, what it takes to succeed, and fail, and to keep moving forward.