Reductio ad Absurdum: A Stress Relief Tool

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Two weeks left, a brief respite, then my internship begins. I’m looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it is not a paid internship, so I have to also find a part time job. I’d like to find one in my industry, but I’m not sure that’s a viable alternative at this point. I’ll have to do some searching…in between classes, labs, studying, car issues, etc. First, though, I need to find my way through four tests and three practicals. Here’s the rundown:

Physiology: Test on kidneys (including acid/base homeostasis), digestion, endocrine, and reproductive. Cumulative lab exam on everything from membrane physiology through reproductive systems.

Performance Enhancement for Athletics: This is the NSCA class. We only have 1 test, and it’s cumulative. The lab exam is also cumulative, though not comprehensive. First is video and picture analysis. Then we randomly draw exercises, have about a minute to set them up before the test subject comes in. We then explain, demonstrate, cue, and correct the subject.

Program Theory and Instructional Design: This is the ACSM class. We have one more non-cumulative test. The lab practical involves doing a series of assessments on a friend we bring in.

Dance: Yes. Apparently dance has a final exam. Technically there’s also a practical, but it’s more of a review. Given this is only a 1 hour credit course, I’m not worrying about it too much.

Oh, and we have final assessments for our faculty clients this week.

Why did I list all this out? It’s one of my “get a grip” tools. By listing what I have to do, I make it easier to figure out how to go about doing it. It’s more than defining hoops to jump through. Not only do I have the hoops defined, I also have clues as to the best approach for each hoop. For instance, the physiology test is probably the most involved; however, the lowest grade I’ve made in that class thus far is in the mid-90s. I have a very significant buffer. The NSCA class, however, has had no tests thus far. Thus this one exam carries more weight than any exam in any other class. That’s my priority. I’ll review and talk with my physiology lab- and classmates, but I’ll spend most of my time getting ready for the NSCA class.

The ACSM class, though in my area of study, has had a couple of tests and several quizzes. Based on my previous history, I’ll spend a little extra time preparing for the assessments in lab, but the test probably won’t be that much trouble. Certainly the dance class won’t get much of my attention. The majority of the grade comes from participation. The test goes over time signatures, cadences, styles, terminology, etc. Given my attendance and participation, even if I make a 0 on the test, I’ll still pass the class with a 75. I’ll do a skim-through but not really worry about it after that.

I’m not saying that none of these tests will be challenging. On the contrary, I know that at least two of them will be VERY challenging. All I’m saying is that with this list and this approach outlined, I now have a reasonable hope of putting my study time in the areas that are of most use to me. Explicitly stated, the order of my efforts are: NSCA, physiology, ACSM, dance. Having determined this, my stress levels are now well within manageable limits. In fact, if I help some of my classmates, I’ll not only be making sure I’ve learned the material, but I’ll be sure I can explain it in multiple ways. When I can explain something in multiple ways, I cease to have doubts about whether I actually know the material.


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My brain, for some reason, doesn’t seem to be working well today. Perhaps it’s overloaded. I missed one of my busiest school days last week because I was dealing with the aftermath of an accident the afternoon before. I’m still dealing with some of that, but since I missed not only two lectures, but two labs, I’m naturally obsessing about that. For the first time in a long time, I’m wishing I didn’t have school today.

On the other hand, it’s a chance for me to find ways to push past a major concern. Find ways to set it aside so that I can concentrate on things I can do something about. Right now, my thoughts are VERY sluggish, hence the lower quality of blog today. Nevertheless, here are some of the coping mechanisms I’m using:

  1.        Prioritizing: Make a list of things to do based on deadlines
  2.        Reframing: Find alternate ways to look at any given situation
  3.        One Step at a Time: Focus on the next task, not the mountain of worries ahead of me
  4.        Determine what I can change and what I can’t, and leave the stuff I can’t change alone


There are, no doubt, others that I will come up with and use; however, it’s one thing to know what to do, and something else to do it.

Effects of Depression on Exercise

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*I got tired of hearing about how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and that the incidence of depression among regular exercisers, so when an opportunity to look at the reverse appeared, I took it. Here is a summary of my research (“lit review”/”background review” for you nit pickers).*

Exercise normalizes the body’s functions. For example, if a person with high blood pressure were to continue on a long-term exercise plan, blood pressure would be reduced. Exercise works the other way, too; a person with very low blood pressure who follows a long-term exercise plan will find their blood pressure rising into the body’s optimum range. Likewise it reduces the effects of insulin resistance (in other words, it increases the body’s sensitivity to existing insulin levels), which is why exercise is often part of the management plan for diabetics.

Exercise has a similar effect on the brain, and therefore, mood. In a normal person, exercise releases endorphins, increases serotonin and norepinephrine levels, and reduce cortisol levels, all of which result in an increase in perceived mood. Unfortunately, such is not always the case with those who suffer from depression. There is a high correlation between patients with major depressive disorder and those with smaller than average hippocampal regions with less neurogenic activity in the region affecting both memory and mood. (Lorenzetti, Allen, Fornito, & Yucel, 2009)

What exercise will do for the depressed client is: reduce cortisol levels and increase endorphins. There are conflicting studies as to whether or not levels of neurotransmitters are changed via exercise; however a recent study involving mice demonstrates that exercise decreases observable depression-type behavior even when tryptophan levels (a precursor and limiting factor for serotonin) were kept low. This indicates that, as with diabetics, exercise may increase the brain’s sensitivity to existing levels of neurotransmitters rather than affecting the concentration of neurotransmitters. (Lee, Ohno, Ohta, & Mikami, 2013) Other studies have shown that there is a lower rate of incidence of depression in regular exercisers. (Strawbridge, Deleger, Roberts, & Kaplan, 2002)

There is a vast pool of literature that tests and retests these conclusions. Few doubt the benefits of exercise on depression. Unfortunately this picture is incomplete. Those who are chronically depressed tend to find it irritating when these and other studies are quoted and we are expected to be motivated. Among other things, we’ve been assured that everything from St. John’s Wort to Prozak will make things better. When treatment after treatment fails, it’s hard to have faith in yet another lifestyle change. The Missing Piece

Feast or famine

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Getting back into writing is an interesting process. And by “interesting” I mean “near paralytic”. During my down period, I couldn’t write. Not that I was physically incapable, but that I had neither the desire nor the mental energy. Now that I’m coming out of the abyss, I have too many ideas overwhelming me. I seem to have trouble finishing a story. Maybe I should work out a rotating system. On Mondays I could work on the vampire mythologies. On Tuesdays I could work on the Ellendahl short stories. On Wednesdays I could work on the romantica stories. Thursdays would have to be for mainstream works. Fridays could then be dedicated to works not yet categorized.

Actually, this sounds like a workable solution. Hmmm.

Into the lion’s den…

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Had to pick up some stuff from someone. This someone was at the core of the troubles that got me to start this blog. (For some really angsty stuff, read the first couple of posts.) I survived intact. Lots to say, no time to say it. Probably a good thing.

“…and by opposing end them.”

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I finally realized where some of my problems lie: I see myself as currently having little justification for my existence. This does not mean I feel like I’m useless or worthless. It simply means I feel as though I’m accomplishing nothing with my life, that nothing I do will matter. In many ways, I think of myself as a failure. How can I justify that viewpoint? Simple: it’s an easier and shorter list to point out my successes. Even limiting a list of failures to equal the amount of successes, matching biggest failure to biggest success, it becomes abundantly clear that I’m losing that tug-of-war.

However, I don’t see myself as a loser. Failure upon failure is a heavy burden. At times a VERY heavy burden. It takes me longer and longer to recover from each. And yet, I do…eventually. And that eventual recovery is why, though a failure, I am not a loser. As a failure, I still hold to certain guiding principles:

1. Take responsibility for my own actions or inaction.
2. Respond to each person and situation with as much grace as possible.
3. Giving up on life is not an option, though rest and recovery are often necessary.

The Long, Slow Climb

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Hey all. Sorry for the week without a post. I hit a truly bad patch of apathy. Seriously. I did almost nothing the entire week. I slept most of the week because I couldn’t get out of bed. Anyway, here’s to a better week.

Into That Good Night


It’s been a very long time since I posted something. My apologies. And I’m afraid this one will probably be depressing for any readers still out there. I won’t be offended if you read no further. It’s why I’m opening with this paragraph. And if you’re the type of person who thinks sharing to work your way through a tough time is merely complaining and whining, please leave. Now.

I almost walked out of choir warm-up today. Choir, church, community, there’s supposed to be a feeling of inclusiveness, yet everything we sang, warm-up pieces or service music, emphasized and re-emphasized my apartness, aloneness, and loneliness. It is really hard to sing with your throat tight with tears.

I tried to come up with an affirmative meditation for candle lighting. I failed.

This flame is a beacon, a call, a summons
To all who can hear.
It is a flare, a warning, an alert
That all is not well.
It is the light of hope, of community, of healing
That in me has been extinguished.

Travelling Thoughts


Whenever I have a significant distance to travel, parts of my mind follows random tracks while the rest pays attention to the driving. Today provided one such opportunity as I drove home from Sherwood Forest Faire in central Texas. Here are some of the things that went through my head.

1. Happiness is a hand to hold, a cheek to brush, a laugh to share. It is the effort of the heart to connect with others to make life bearable. It is a thought of a smile soon to be enjoyed. It is tremor of terror when you let go and damn the consequences. Happiness is to be cherished, but never sought, for by seeking you are constantly reminded that you are not happy.

2. That woman was cute. Too bad we only ran into each other at the pub sing just before the faire closed. Where had she been all day? Oh well.

3. I feel like I’ve forgotten something. Oh yeah. My blog. Haven’t posted anything there for several days. *refrains from slapping his own hand while driving*

4. That bit on happiness was good. Profound. And ever so slightly pretentious. How should I present it? Turn it into a poem? No. My poetry is adequate, and people tend to skip over merely adequate poetry. So prose, then. Sermon? Hardly. Ah yes. Random thoughts.

5. What was her name? Never got a chance to use it.

6. Ouch. Legs sore. Feet sore. Back sore. Face pink. These are the true costs of going to a renfaire. Was it worth it? Yes. If only to prove to myself that past associations wouldn’t crush my heart. It came close a time or two, but I would go again…as long as I didn’t go alone. Ren Faires are no places to be alone in.

7. That happiness closer is really good. I wonder if I can actually apply it to my life. Here’s to trying….

Some Thoughts on Depression


Depression comes in two main types: acute (single incident or short term) and chronic (long term; i.e. 6+ months and/or recurrent). Within each type are many layers of severity ranging from “I can’t do anything right” to “I don’t even have the energy to commit suicide.”

In everyday vernacular, “depressed” is just another word for “sad”. While this may be true in most cases, in many cases it is a serious and potentially life threatening problem. Being “clinically depressed” doesn’t mean you’re always sad or down. But it is often difficult to describe to people what it’s like to be depressed. It’s usually even more difficult to convince them it is not a temporary thing that can be “gotten over” with time and/or distraction. That being said, here are a few of my thoughts on what it’s like to be Depressed.

“Depression isn’t sadness. Depression is Life, in all its underwhelming glory, as it crushes your soul.”

“If happiness were a 100 yard dash, I’d start somewhere two miles behind the starting line.”

“I have determined that I can become invisible against my will. Despite sitting in nearly empty halls, no passing friend greets me.”

“My heart breaks in these empty halls
Echoes of laughter, echoes of tears
Sound and resound in my soul.”

“A shadow creeps in and paints everything in despair.
It bleeds off hope and joy. It shuts off your air.”

“Normally I have no problem looking at my feelings, but now I’m scared to look into that soul-sucking abyss.”

“When you are a depressive, you often don’t want to go to bed. This is not because you don’t want the day to end, but because you don’t want tomorrow to begin.”

It is important to note that while most people have had similar thoughts from time to time, those who are depressed often feel they are the embodiment of these thoughts. And it is not that we who are Depressed cannot feel joy or happiness, contentment or euphoria; rather, it is that the statements above are descriptions of our base line existence.

In many ways, we are as handicapped as those with Aspberger’s Syndrome. Often our social and pragmatic skills are retarded. Certainly how we see ourselves and our place in society and with other people is distorted, sometimes unbelievably so to those who are fortunate enough not to have to deal with it, or are only on the periphery. And as a result of that distortion, how we react to some things surprises or shocks those around us. For instance, it took more than 20 years for me to feel that friendly teasing was not an all-out attack on my personal worth. It is something I still have trouble with, sometimes, and as a result, I don’t often tease others on a personal level.

The good news is that, though it cannot be cured, Depression can be treated. The bad news is that the treatments are expensive. To give an example: on the spectrum of Depression, I have a moderate to light case. Yet without insurance, my course of medication is roughly $800 each month…and I’m one of the lucky ones. It’s not unusual for the cost of medications to exceed $1000. That’s just medication. Never mind the visits to the doctor/psychiatrist, or even the hospital E.R. or in-patient services.

Are there other conditions that are more expensive to treat? Absolutely. Even over the lifetime of the person. This is not about “whose life sucks more”. This is about educating those who see only someone who seems perpetually down or irritable, those whose only glimpse into our everyday lives is the death of a loved one or the obliteration of a cherished hope. And we, too, lose loved ones. We, too, have hopes that are destroyed.

If you know someone who is Depressed, seek to understand them rather than pity or avoid them. You’ll find that Depressives are among the most empathic people you meet.

How do you know if you or someone else is depressed? See a psychiatrist. When is it time to see a psychiatrist? If you consistently have 3 or more of these symptoms:
+ difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
+ fatigue and decreased energy
+ feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
+ feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
+ insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
+ irritability, restlessness
+ loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
+ overeating or appetite loss
+ persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
+ persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
+ thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts (even if this is the only symptom, see a psychiatrist as soon as possible)

If you have any or all of these symptoms, are you Depressed? Maybe, maybe not. See someone qualified. Psychologist/Psychiatrist visits are now often covered by insurance. Take advantage of it if you have insurance. If you don’t, sometimes therapists will do pro bono work. When they do, they often post flyers in places like a YMCA or community center bulletin board.