Depression, learned helplessness and microrevolts

In spite of the ominous title, this is not going to be a total bummer entry. Just an honest one.

You may have noticed a sizable gap between this and the last entry. This is an understatement, as it’s been over a year since I’ve added anything. I could make up excuses, the easiest one being ‘I was busy’ and ‘time got away from me.’ But honestly, it comes down to depression.  I’ve been struggling with depression for most of my life, and this past year has not been an exception. If anything, I’ve felt it getting worse. In an effort to not dwell on the factors, we’ll say it’s mostly stuff that I am unable to immediately change, which makes me feel helpless to affect change in my own life (more on that later). When my outlook did swing more towards the positive, I didn’t want to spend my ‘good’ time trying to figure out what to write about. I have kept myself busy with competitions, personal projects and commissions, but adding more entries has felt like such an obstacle.

Frankly, I struggle with what to write about. If you’ve read any of the previous entries, you can see that I just describe whatever sewing project is being worked on. I’ve felt so weird writing those entries. My bank of knowledge isn’t extensive enough for me to treat this as a tutorial blog, to teach readers about how to sew. In general, the process of writing has felt so … silly. I’m afraid that this blog comes off as just some random voice in the vastness of the internet advertising the jumble of projects I’m working on. Viewing it through that lens, this blog comes off the way most do – self-serving and self-aggrandizing. Ultimately, who cares about any of this? As you can imagine, that kind of thinking doesn’t deter the hopelessness of depression. So what am I doing back on here? There are two things that stopped the downward spiral: an amazing article on learned helplessness on the blog You Are Not So Smart and my epiphany granting fiancé, Matt.

In a nutshell, learned helplessness occurs when someone has experienced continued pain (emotional or physical) and were unable to stop it. After experiencing this, the person may endure painful situations because they feel that they cannot change the scenario. I liken this Stockholm Syndrome, but without the kidnapping. This behavior, as one can imagine, is linked to depression due to the futility the person can feel in their own life. Feeling particularly low one day, I researched learned helplessness and stumbled on the aforementioned article by David McRaney. It basically went into detail about the behavioral science that goes into the theory and examples of how it can be seen in contemporary society. McRaney finished out the article offering a solution to this that many already does unknowingly. He says:

“…you feel like you can’t control the forces affecting your fate. So, you stage microrevolts. You customize your ringtone, you paint your room, you collect stamps. You choose.”

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It’s so simple that I didn’t see it for what it was. Making seemingly insignificant choices affect your mental well being. This makes sense when you consider how little you want to do when you’re depressed. Sleeping in a dark room seems like heaven (at least it does for me).

So I’d found this super helpful article that helped me contextualize why I felt so low. The other obstacle I was facing was what the heck to I write about? Do I keep writing these senseless descriptions of what I’m working on or do I change it up? I was communicating this dilemma to Matt, who said suggested that I broaden the subject matter to more than just sewing. That if Scene Ripper is really supposed to be my platform as a woman who enjoys sewing, designing and geek culture that it would be logical to talk about my interests that are outside of sewing. Yet another obvious observation that had completely eluded me.

So going forward, Scene Ripper will still have a strong focus on sewing, fashion and costume, but is now open to discussing any other nifty geek thing that I find interesting. My hope is that if the entries are more fun to read they might be more fun to write.

My parting note on the depression thing is that I don’t bring it up for sympathy or to use it as an excuse. I bring it up because I know I’m not the only person dealing with it, and hopefully someone reads this and it resonates with them. The ‘lows’ always feel like the end of the world and it’s nearly impossible to see an end in sight. But there always is, and we all need to be reminded of it.

Light and love. Onward and upward.

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