Classic, and doesn’t get enough play anymore.

Like almost 12% of teenagers in the United States, I suffered from depression when I was younger.  (and still, but that’s another story).

Depression is insidious, partly because we overuse the term, but also because we have a lingering belief that folks should just “snap out of” whatever is bothering them, totally discounting that this is an illness that needs to be dealt with.

Building positive coping skills is an important part of treatment for people struggling with depression.  Coping skills (the fancy psychological term for how we make ourselves feel better) can be anything, from listening to music, to running, to petting a dog, to painting, to talking on the phone.  The possibilities are endless, and it’s important to have a large list, because each coping skill is not going to work in every situation (i.e. I might not always be able to go for a run, or some days my favorite movie doesn’t help, etc).

One of the most prevalent coping skills suggested to me, and that’s often suggested for folks through the popular media, is that things will improve in the future.  It was a movement of support for LGBTQIA youth a couple years ago.  It’s still something I tell myself.

It’s not the most effective thing to tell someone struggling with depression.

Part of being depressed is the loss of hope, of optimism, and of future orientation.  When you’re depressed, you’re not too interested in tomorrow, because things are awful today, right now.   Depression saps your motivation and energy.  “It gets better” might be true, and it’s a great message, but it’s not enough on its own, because depression works against that.

I truly believe that often things do get better, if only because feelings of intense sadness are just that – feelings, and feelings pass.  What we must be careful to avoid is invalidating people’s depression and sadness now, in service of a misty, hopeful future.

 

My all-time favorite love song, and a lost classic of Motown.  Frank never gets his due!

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For the longest time, and likely right now, I thought communicating with my partner would take away something from our relationship.  Surely, if he truly loved and understood me, he could interpret my change in breathing, or remember what I wanted for Christmas, or actually empty the dishwasher.  If I were to say something out loud, I thought it meant we were no longer in love.

Truthfully, this is baloney.

And just as truthfully, in past (younger) relationships, I didn’t believe my partner was doing something because he actually wanted to…just doing it because I had asked, which took something away from the action.

Again, baloney.

The goal of communicating within a relationship is to increase your cooperation, happiness, and respect for each other.  Oh, and to get what you want, and make sure your relationship gets what it needs to be healthy.  If you’ve got a problem, the goal is to get the problem solved.  It doesn’t really matter if a partner really wants to empty the dishwasher, or if he/she is just doing that to make you happy – the dishwasher is still empty.   Problem solved.

My favorite sexual feminist issue is consent (read about it here!), and I have come to suspect our distrust and misuse of consent is centered around the same preconceptions I used to have about communication.  Surely, we think, if I tell my partner to do something differently, or that I don’t like that position, or that I’d rather not have sex right now, then I won’t be able to enjoy anything ever again and our love is over and this sex is no longer sexy.

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Let’s pump the brakes on this, yes?

So many issues can be avoided if we’d just talk to each other!  And the worst song offender I’ve found, a song that totally centers the idea of acting without actually talking to the person you’re interested in, is this gem by pop rock stalwarts Weezer (lyrics here)…except the idea is that he says it out loud.  Great job, Rivers!

Ryan Gosling knows.  #bonusGIF

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My mom saw these guys at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor back in the 1970s.  Classic.

boundaries

One of the easiest problematic themes to identify in our music is poor boundaries.

As my frequent readers are no doubt aware, I am a firm believer in boundaries.  These are the limits we set around ourselves in our relationships – they are what we will accept from others, what we will not accept, and the consequences for violations of these boundaries.

Often, those with poor boundaries grew up in a non-validating household, though not necessarily an abusive one.  Abuse, obviously, is a violation of personal boundaries; if you say no, and something happens anyway, you learn you have no power or control over your body, and that others do not respect your limits.  Correcting this misperception is often the primary function of therapy.  However, simple non-validation can also lead to poor boundary development – asking to use the restroom and being told “you can’t have to go, you just went,” or trying to ask for what you want, and being totally ignored, teaches us to mistrust our own wants, needs, and feelings.

Personal relationships often see the worst boundary violations.  The lines between ourselves and the significant other blur, creating an unhealthy and addictive relationship; those who have been enmeshed with a partner know how frightening this can feel, how emotions run unchecked, how powerless you can seem.

Unfortunately, examples of this issue are put forward as the ideal for romantic love almost constantly.  Listening to this song, I was reminded how we can’t depend on others for our entire well being, and how doing so is crazymaking.*  (really, Dido?  You can’t be until I’m here?  YIKES!)  Also, the Spice Girls have a great one which can be enjoyed for maximum nostalgia here.

However, as a change of pace, I’m going to put in a song with kick ass boundary setting, by Alanis Morissette from her first album (the first CD I ever owned, as it happens.)  Lyrics are here; I fully recommend reading along!  This is such a great example of setting boundaries between two people, I absolutely love it.  Enjoy!

 

*I am by no means saying those around us don’t affect us – they totally do!  But depending on other people to determine our emotions isn’t healthy, and deprives us of personal autonomy.  If I’m having a bad day just because you are, I’m also not going to be able to offer support and healthy feedback for you – it’s bad for everyone.

In honor of my father.  As always.

Since this isn’t a blog based on diagnosis, but more commentary and information, we won’t spend too much time talking about the validity of psychological diagnoses as a whole (though there are some incredible debates and thinkers who are great folks to follow).  However, I want to briefly touch on Delusional Disorder, the erotomanic type.

Delusions are thought processes and beliefs that do not fit with reality, and persist despite evidence that they’re untrue.  In the erotomanic type, (cribbed from the DSM-V), “the central theme of the delusion is that another person is in love with the individual.”

This is a terrifying concept, and one I think we often see represented in popular media.  One of my favorite bands, and one of the most problematic punk bands around, is Masked Intruder.  Many of their songs concern stalking and threats of bodily harm, and serve as great examples of how delusions form and have negative effects on the object of the delusion.  Imagine telling someone to get lost, and they don’t leave you alone. 

(There is also a terrific cultural argument to be made here, that men often disregard the rejection of women and continue to believe a woman is interested, despite clear evidence to the contrary, and get angry when the rejection continues.  Often, women are killed after rejecting men’s advances.  Coincidentally (surely), this is part of the criteria for Delusional Disorder.)

The song I’ve chosen, from the rich field of possibilities, is “Almost Like We’re Already in Love” (lyrics here).

Scary, right?!

Up da punx, yah?

One of the most important concepts, and one of the easiest to grasp, is how substance abuse (particularly, for our purposes today, alcohol use) impacts our ability to plan and organize our thoughts and behaviors.

Executive functions, including impulse control, planning, organization, moral judgments, and consequential thinking, are focused mainly in our brain’s frontal lobe.  Frequent readers will remember how this brain development isn’t finished until the early 20s (a great argument for juvenile justice reform).  This is the first part of our brain to really get drunk.

Because the frontal lobe is affected by alcohol so quickly, we lose our ability to properly plan and appreciate consequences of our behavior.  It’s the reason driving after a couple beers makes so much sense to the one drinking.  It’s the reason we have unprotected sex with people we don’t know after closing down the bar.  It’s the reason all those plans for calling our ride, or walking home, go out the window because it’s 1am and it’s cold and we’re tired and we could surely drive just this once, right?

Having a bit of alcohol in our system also impairs our ability to stop drinking.  It’s easy, when sober, to think that two beers will be where we’ll stop; it’s a lot harder after those beers to say no to the next drink.  (This is also due to alcohol’s biphasic effect – we’re feeling good, happy, relaxed after a few, but the depressant effect kicks in more strongly the more we drink.)

There are a million songs about bad decisions under the influence, but I think the most illustrative tune is this Flogging Molly classic, Drunken Lullabies (lyrics here).

The chorus – and we find ourselves in the same old mess, singing drunken lullabies.  We can’t learn when we’re drunk, and we can’t plan properly when we’re drunk, and when we’re drunk, we just want to keep drinking!