Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

I know how it feels to be passed by. I know how it feels to allow someone else’s success to be my own failure. I know all too well how hard it is to battle a nasty inner voice.” @AmericaFerrera


Inspiration is all around us. I found a little bit of it the other day in the New York Times in an essay about training for a triathlon by America Ferrera: “How a Triathlon Helped America Ferrera Defy Her Inner Critic.”

With every step, stroke and pedal, I turned “No, I can’t” into “Yes, I can,” “I’m limited” into “Look what I’m capable of,” and “I’m weak” into “I am whole, healthy and strong.’” @AmericaFerrera

You’d think that someone who is as successful as she is in her chosen profession would be beyond negative self-talk. Especially with so many agents, publicists and studio execs kissing her (bad)ass on a daily basis.

But no, she does it too. It was also nice to hear someone who is in the public eye openly admit to being human and fallible. I find that refreshing and inspiring. I have to admit that blogging about my own psychological challenges feels a bit strange at times. I’m not one who likes attention, I dislike most reality TV shows, and I was raised not to “air my dirty laundry in public.”

BUT, if no one aired their dirty laundry, how would we know that how we feel is also how a lot of other people feel. We can only learn and grow by sharing what we know, by being honest. So hopefully you appreciate my contribution to the noise as much as I appreciate America Ferrera’s.

And who isn’t guilty of negative self-talk, even though we know it’s not good for us. And it can be as innocent as calling yourself stupid if you make a minor mistake. I’ve called myself that just for dropping something. And each and every one of those comments chips away (subconsciously) at your self-esteem.

I have to admit that I have tried to use positive reinforcement on myself, but it always sounds silly or lame. Or like Donald Trump. “I’m Awesome!” “I’m Huge!” “I’m a force to be reckoned with,” etc., etc… So even if I don’t do that, thank you America for reminding me not to do the other.

I finally got my answer to that question: Who do you think you are? I am whoever I say I am.” @AmericaFerrera

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NYT Sunday MagOf course, none of the drugs work conclusively, and for now we are stuck with what comes down to a refined form of guesswork — 30-odd pills that operate in not completely understood ways on neural pathways, on serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine and what have you. No one, not even the psychopharmacologists who dispense them after considering the odds, totally comprehends why they work when they work or why they don’t when they don’t. All the while the repercussions and the possible side effects (which include mild trembling on the one end to tardive dyskinesia, a rare condition that causes uncontrollable grimacing, on the other end) are shunted to the side until such time as they can no longer be ignored.”  “A Journey Through Darkness,” By Daphne Merkin / Sunday May 10, 2009 New York Times Magazine. 

Another quiet Sunday on the sofa, a cup of French roast coffee, George Winston on the piano (on the stereo, not in the living room) and the mandatory perusal of the New York Times.  But again, today, as in recent Sundays, my mind is not allowed to drift and contemplate budget tapas in Barcelona or the latest Denis Johnson novel, “Nobody Move.”  No, today I must once again confront the topic of depression.  Seems there is no getting away from it these days. 

The cover story of The New York Times Magazine is “A Long Journey in the Dark: My Life with Chronic Depression,” by Daphne Merkin.

Ms. Merkin’s experience of a hospital stay at the New York Psychiatric Institute, prescription drugs, and the decision of whether or not to try ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) to manage a particularly bad bout of depression, is beautifully told, heartbreaking, and all too familiar. 

The article is worth reading for many reasons.  For one, she covers a lot of ground: therapy, drugs, suicide, and relationships.  For another, while the story may not be a unique one, her ability to use language to make a point or to describe an emotion, is almost painfully beautiful and right on target. 

In some way, the quiet terror of severe depression never entirely passes once you’ve experienced it. It hovers behind the scenes, placated temporarily by medication and renewed energy, waiting to slither back in, unnoticed by others. It sits in the space behind your eyes, making its presence felt even in those moments when other, lighter matters are at the forefront of your mind. It tugs at you, keeping you from ever being fully at ease. Worst of all, it honors no season and respects no calendar; it arrives precisely when it feels like it.” 

My only issue with the essay is the ending.  For a woman who has “…not been free of psychotropic medication for any substantial period since [her] early 20s,” and admits to gobbling down a “…medley of pills — Lamictal, Risperdal, Wellbutrin and Lexapro,” she seems content with the idea that Abilify is the answer, albeit a temporary one. 

While I am always happy that someone has even momentary relief from the pain of depression, I can’t help but have that feeling overshadowed by disappointment at the fact that these stopgap measures are our only, short-lived, salvation. 

How long will we have to play prescription Russian roulette, wasting precious months, even years, as we wait to see what combination will work for us, all the while knowing that the solution is never permanent?  Never a cure.  While Ms. Merkin’s essay tries to end on a positive note, it is at best, a bittersweet one.

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This is WaterIf you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down. David Foster Wallace 

I’m a bit confused today.  Befuddled.  Perplexed. 

I settled down on the living room sofa this morning, dog on my right, coffee cup on my left, New York Times on my lap.  I read the Arts & Leisure section first, then Style, then Travel, and so on, as always, saving the Book Review for last. 

The scenario is the same every Sunday.  I read about Broadway openings I wish weren’t three thousand miles away.  I learn how to get by in Madrid on $1,000 a day.  And I discover another book or two that I want to, but never will have time to read. 

But today the Book Review ended with an essay by Tom Bissell, “Great and Terrible Truths,” about the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address by David Foster Wallace.

This led me to the full transcript on Marginalia, which included the above quote. 

It seems strange to think that someone so gifted, so (relatively) young, and so capable of understanding the power of the mind, could take his own life. 

David Foster Wallace hanged himself on September 12, 2008.  And, if only to prove his point, “There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of,” the day that I read the report of his death I remember thinking, if Wallace, a successful and admired writer can succumb, what hope is there for me? 

I hate to admit that I had a similar thought this morning as I read his words about being able to train your mind to experience the world differently.  How could he speak with such conviction about the ability of the mind to rise above the circumstances and still put a noose around his neck?  How can I? 

But in fact, I do understand.  I do experience the dichotomy.  I do believe that I have the power to overcome my demons, but only during those moments when my demons have taken a brief respite. 

They’ll be back.  Both are real, the belief that I can be “master of my own domain,” and the fact that I am at the mercy of a mind compromised by genetics and further damaged by parents unable to nurture. 

The scariest thing is the conviction with which my mind can hold both thoughts.  I can conquer the world.  All is hopeless. 

Normally a quote like Mr. Wallace’s would refresh me, remind me of my strength, lift me up, if only momentarily—just long enough.  But today they are an eerie reminder that we are all standing on shaky ground.

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