Breaking the Cycle

When I last publicly spoke of depression, it was to tell the story of how I got through my darkest days so far – days where I questioned the purpose and reason for continuing my life and the days that followed.

Now, for the benefit of those who experience depression, it is time to address what I said at the end of that article:

“These days I occasionally suffer bouts of depression, but what would have once taken weeks to overcome now takes less than a day.

I cannot stress enough how much therapy, friends and family can make all the difference.

Talking to someone is everything. It means the world.

Today, life keeps going. I keep going.”

This is all true. Most of the time. Sometimes there are events in our lives that last anywhere between a few days and a few months that can drastically change our mood: being overworked, upcoming exams, death, loss of love or friendship, etc. In those times we can find ourselves reverting to old habits of cyclical thinking as the darkness of depression takes hold once more.

Again we find ourselves at a party unable to tear our mind from our worries, forcing ourselves to play our favourite game, or just generally looking at things without truly seeing them. We space out into our own world of “what ifs” and (seemingly justified) predictions of the future that closes like a bubble around our ambitions and normal lives.

“I wish I could end the article here, but I can’t.

In third year, I pushed away friends and instead embraced a relationship destined to fail. Over its course I came to feel unwanted, lost my sense of autonomy and the river of emotions that I had walked away from the previous year came rushing back.”

What I found that worked back then and what I find to work best today – though admittedly much more difficult than it sounds – is breaking the cycle of negative thoughts and the actions/activities that help reinforce them.

Breaking the cycle doesn’t have to mean making an ideological or lifestyle change. In fact, doing so will likely increase the depression as such a task to anyone would seem large and even insurmountable. A break in a cycle need not be drastic.

When I stopped dating my ex I broke the cycle by going out exploring. And no I don’t mean taking out the old bicycle to a trail and then hiking all day. I mean going to a café I had been meaning to try for ages. Yes, there were the friends who were there for me and sympathetic family members, but what always stays in my mind as the turning point out of that period of darkness was sitting down in that café for a waffle and just enjoying it. My mind on nothing else. If you have to pull your mind out of other thoughts then do so. If it happens again then pull your mind out again, and again, as many times as is necessary. Stay focused on what is in front of you – whether that thing is a delicious waffle, something you’re crocheting, or a friend with whom you’re chatting.

Do this once and you’ll feel a change. Perhaps it will be major, perhaps it will be minor, but it will be a change nonetheless. In some small seemingly meaningless way, you’ll have broken the cycle. Maybe just a bit, but it will act as a thread that you can pull little by little to get out of the darkness.

In time and with a little luck you’ll work your way up to enough breaks in the cycle that depression no longer acts as such a large buffer to your enjoyment of life. The light will be able to shine again even in the darkest corners.

But you have to start. Today. Now. Right this second. You’re already reading this article so maybe your way of breaking the cycle is reading, maybe it’s something else.

It can be simple. It should be simple, by your standards. Simple is easy, it isn’t insurmountable. Like the start to anything it has the potential to lead to something big. And in this case that big thing is a reliable method for you to break the cycle of depression; whenever, wherever and however it may take hold.

Disclaimer: while this is what worked for me and many others I have spoken to there is always a chance it may not work for you. If the problem of depression persists or worsens you should contact professional help.

Good2Talk (students) – 1-866-925-5454

Suicide Hotline (Canada) – 1-800-784-2433

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) – 1-800-273-8255

Feature image: Pexels
Advertisements

Trending Alternatives

Vegetarianism

In the month or so since my last post I’ve started following a pescetarian diet. Turns out watching Cowspiracy and doing extensive research into the meat and dairy industry affected me a fair bit.

One of the biggest things I’ve noticed about following this diet (and having a vegan cookbook) is that everything is REALLY cheap. I’m talking spending $30 or less a week while making delicious home-cooked meals kind of cheap. If I had known this when I was in my early years of university I would have adopted a pseudo-vegan diet much earlier on.

Getting sick of eating too many ramen noodle cups might be part of the student experience, but once you get to that stage (it happens pretty damn quickly) you should definitely check out some vegan recipes. I’m not saying go 100% vegan – especially because this would ruin your ability to enjoy pizza (the other big university food), but have one here and there and add some chicken if you feel like it.

vegetables-italian-pizza-restaurant

Find a few recipes you really like (the cookbook I linked earlier, Thug Kitchen, is fantastic), go to the bulk food store, pick up most of the ingredients for a ridiculously low price, and enjoy an awesome meal that doesn’t involve dried noodles, flavour packets and a lifetime supply of MSG.

This brings me to the topic of this post (and often the topic of this blog): eating cheaply during and after university. Even if you’re incredibly lazy with food, chances are you’re not willing to spend a ton of money to get that convenience (you’d rather use that excess money to pay back the saddening amount of student debt, or you know, do something fun).

If you look at a couple of the vegan recipes in Thug Kitchen Cookbook or elsewhere you may notice that there can be a ton of ingredients. Don’t get scared away! For the most part when you look more closely it basically says to take all these (easy to prepare/ready-to-cook) ingredients, toss them into a bowl/pan and mix.

At this point you probably want me to stop ranting on and on about vegan recipes, so I will (aren’t you lucky!).

Soylent 2.0

Those of you who know me in person, or who checked out the video I linked on the Facebook page a while back, know that I did a five-day Soylent challenge a while back (or rather attempted one and failed miserably) along with two of my co-editors at the Western Gazette. Soylent is a meal replacement (not to be confused with “meal supplement”) that comes in both powder and liquid form. It is essentially 20% of all your nutritional needs (based on a 2,000 calorie diet) all in a convenient bag/bottle.

When I attempted to switch to Soylent for five days it went downhill pretty quick. The powdered version – Soylent 1.5 – I found to be lumpy, grainy, poor tasting and just generally a terrible experience. But I still liked the idea, even if I had given up on the challenge after two days.

powder_gallery4-4c33e47e9042

A couple weeks later I ordered some Soylent 2.0, which differs from its powdered counterpart by being factory-mixed (meaning no grainy/lumpy texture), flavoured with a hint of strawberry (which really just makes it taste like slightly sweet milk) and bottled into convenient.. err.. bottles.

Over the course of about a month I had a bottle of Soylent 2.0 every morning for breakfast and occasionally for lunch or dinner if I was in a rush to go out. The convenience I had hoped for with 1.5 was present with the slightly more expensive 2.0.

Soylent 2.0 is a student’s dream meal when it comes to cost and convenience. Each 400-calorie bottle costs about $3 US including shipping and tax. For those of you who NEED a morning coffee, they recently came out with Coffiest, which kills two birds with one stone by giving you a cheap meal and your morning coffee in one bottle (though I can’t speak to how it tastes as I have yet to try it).

13662487_817033481730569_2078675320_o

Whether you’re needing a healthy snack while at the library (that doesn’t involve crunching lettuce on the silent floor), rushing to a morning class, out for a long walk or up late and not wanting to spend time prepping a meal, Soylent 2.0 is the best thing I’ve had. So please put away those ramen noodles once in a while and replace it with one of these (or a vegan/vegetarian meal if that’s your fancy and you’ve got the time).

There are a lot of ways to eat more cheaply but these options allow you to do so while still maintaining a healthy diet. While they may not be the most popular options around that doesn’t mean they aren’t good ones. When it comes to future eating it’s all about looking out for new and upcoming trends and in a few years time (or less), chances are these options will be far more popular than they are today.

Images: Pexels (1), soylent.com (1)

Eating for the Community

Community

The Inuits living in arctic Alaska believe in a subsistence lifestyle, where hunting isn’t just about putting food on the table for yourself or for your family, it’s about sharing with the whole community.

Excess consumption is a critical problem in today’s society. Red meat – something not necessary at all for the human diet – is eaten several times per week by many if not most people. Think of food chains that offer a quick burger to go so you can eat a hunk of meat for your meal without a second thought.

We’re completely disconnected from our food.

By no means do I consider myself a vegetarian or vegan. I eat fish and meat far more than I should. I indulge in chicken fingers from The Spoke at Western University and treat myself to the occasional steak cooked on my cast iron pan. I love going out for duck when I can and never say no to a delicious platter of assorted local meats.

Recently though, I’ve started to question my own indulgences and those of our society.

When we go to the supermarket to buy our weekly groceries, the chicken we purchase comes in a nice clean package – blood, skin and bones removed – with two or more lovely pieces ready to be cooked. We don’t think about it. We just add it to our cart and go on our merry way.

Across the world chickens are cooped up in masses and slaughtered in inhumane conditions. Being raised “organically” doesn’t make much of a difference to the consumer. You let yourself stop feeling guilty because it ate nicer food and lived a nicer life and maybe it’s healthier for you, but all the difference you really see is a slightly different label on the package of chicken from the supermarket. Your eating habits don’t actually change much.

The inuits living in arctic Alaska hunt for the needs of the whole community. They don’t have access to supermarkets that disconnect them from the rest of the world, meaning they aren’t disconnected from the process of hunting for food and preparing it. They understand everything as being connected (nature, animals, humans, climate).

On the flip side, urbanized societies around the world are completely disconnected. When you go to your favourite burger joint you aren’t thinking about how your hunger and your indulgences affect the needs of the community or its ability to access food. Sure, you’ll think of your family when shopping for the week’s groceries, but the buck stops there.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

A couple months back I proposed a scenario to as many friends as possible. Inspired by a Buzzfeed video, I asked people if they would be willing to go to a chicken farm and kill and cook their own chicken, following the common guidelines and with the direct instructions of a farmer (assuming of course the chicken was going to be killed and eaten anyway). Only one friend said yes out of over 30.

That friend grew up in a place where it was common to witness chickens being butchered – their blood running down the street into the drain – as he walked home from school or to see people buying live chickens to butcher and prepare at home. He, unlike most of us, wasn’t born into a society completely detached from the process.

The rest of the people I asked were taken aback, disgusted by the very notion of being so close to a process. Those who briefly considered it said if they did it, they wouldn’t be able to eat chicken ever again. One friend even called me insane for showing interest in doing such a thing.

We’re used to others doing our dirty work. Out of sight, out of mind. Movies that expose the industry for what it is are hard for us to watch. They make us face realities that we have an inkling about, but are too afraid to embrace. Why? It would ruin our enjoyment of our favourite meals.

Sustainability

Does all this matter really matter? Sure, it would be nice if people appreciated where their food came from, but would it really change anything other than adding a little educational note to our meals?

Definitely.

It’s about eating with the whole community in mind.

Cowspiracy, a movie exposing the impact of the meat industry, illustrates how just one burger takes about 660 gallons of water to produce.

One. Burger.

The average American uses about 80 gallons of water per day, meaning over eight days of water goes into that one burger.

According to Cowspiracy individuals eat about 9oz of meat and dairy per day; to be sustainable, that number would have to be about 2oz… Per week.

Who knows, maybe red meat will become the next tobacco and become shunned by the world at large, changing our environment and communities.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen (at least not anytime soon). Nor do I think the solution is to expect everyone to go vegan or vegetarian – an unrealistic expectation given the habits and stubbornness of our generation.

The key here is moderation.

This means instead of having a burger every time we feel like it to having one maybe once a week (or less if possible). It means considering where the meat is coming from (really coming from) and appreciating it as more than just a piece of raw food in a plastic and styrofoam package.

With education and moderation I think we can get a little bit closer to the subsistence lifestyle exemplified by the Inuits living in arctic Alaska.

If each person were to start eating for their community instead of just themselves, it could be another giant leap for mankind.

Images: Cowspiracy (1)