Feeling slightly better

March 22, 2007 at 3:47 am 7 comments

I’ve felt a bit better today. Or at least my concentration hasn’t been so shot, so I’ve been able to distract myself more fully. This translates to putting in about 16 hours of work on a project I’m doing at the moment. It’s a reference work about a webcomic, collating character appearances, significant events and so on. I’ve been working on gathering the information for a couple of weeks, which has been another distraction technique, and over the past three days (while I’ve been rather depressed) I’ve written the software needed to take the information and build html files out of it. It’s a fairly large amount of code.

Being depressed, I’m not supposed to be able to concentrate enough to do this kind of thing. At least according to my psychiatrist.

The reason I can do this is, I think, ties into psychological theories about a state of consciousness called flow. As Csikszentmihalyi, the guy who came up with the theory says: “When in the flow state, people become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself, action awareness merging.

In other words, I’m modulating my experience of the world by attaining a state in which my awareness of my myself is highly limited. It doesn’t get rid of the depression, which returns as soon as I take my attention back, but it blocks it out, because there’s no room for me to experience it. A fairly productive coping mechanism, really. Not one that’s terribly useful when I have to do anything else, but helpful sometimes. Especially when trying to get to the point where I’m too tired to bother acting on urges to harm myself.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. northcountrygirl  |  March 22, 2007 at 4:08 am

    i didn’t read the whole wiki article … but i understand the concept as you describe it. my takes a great deal of concentration as well. quantity surveying, as you call it in the UK. my ability to get into the ‘flow’ has greatly diminished over the years. i wonder sometimes if it’s because i haven’t had a vacation in years and years. or if it is just the depression. or the medications. or a combination of all three. but i will say, when i do in fact get into the flow, it’s quite nice.

    i live in ny, and someone told me someone pulled their car over on the tappan zee bridge and jumped off the other day. it was on the front page of the newspaper. i know that people are always jumping off one bridge or another, brooklyn bridge, tappan zee, whatever. but i always thought there was a policy in the media not to make a big deal about it … for fear of ‘copy cats’ …

    oh well.

  • 2. eleanor  |  March 22, 2007 at 11:55 am

    I think you should view it more than just a coping mechanism Chimp. Having things to do and something to work towards is getting an essential requirement for being stretched fulfilled.

    Focusing on something outside yourself like on your project is a healthy, preferable state, that as you’ve found, makes you feel a bit better. I think it’s a very positive sign that, although you feel depressed, you are still able to get into that healthy state of focused attention and ‘flow’ and I would view it as a resource.

    Remember, it IS a ‘terribly useful thing’ to do!

    Eleanor

  • 3. experimental chimp  |  March 22, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Eleanor – I’m not sure how healthy it is. I’m sure focusing outwards is a good thing, but with the ‘flow’ state, and particularly the long periods of hyperfocus – it’s impossible to consider any other needs. In HG terms, that means I’m ignoring every other need I have. That includes things like eating. It’s healthier than hurting myself, but ideally some kind of middle ground would be good, where I can choose my level of attention appropriately.

  • 4. eleanor  |  March 22, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Hm, I see.

    You’re right – it’s definitely about balance.

  • 5. gloomferret  |  March 22, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    I do that too! In fact its the only way I ever get any work done…
    Its better than never being able to do anything productive isn’t it? Seems to be the alternative for me…
    I am trying to find a way to modulate the focus so I can switch it on and off rather than burn at full throttle for 16 hours and then collapse in a useless heap of morbidity for 2 weeks.

    Funny thing is, I can acheive about as much in 16 hours as many people in an office environment would achieve in a week.

  • 6. Francesco Bellafante  |  March 22, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Glad to hear you feeling at list a bit better. I am indeed impressed, not to mention curious about how productive you can be while still being quite depressed as you described it.

    I have experience with suicidal feelings and depression. When I nearly took my own life I was unable to sleep more than a few hours a night and was completely falling apart at work. i.e. unable to produce the required output.

    I did not research this “flow” idea that you were writing about, but on the outside looking in, it looks pretty straightforward to me.

    Throw yourself into something productive or creative that will take your mind off of you!

    Hey, if it works and doesn’t hurt anyone else and in fact helps you, go with it!

    Wishing you the best,
    fb

  • 7. patientanonymous  |  March 23, 2007 at 1:25 am

    Glad you’re feeling a bit better. I can either not be the slightest interested in things if they don’t appeal to me (and then I get antsy) or really hyperfocus on something and a nuclear bomb could go off beside me and I wouldn’t even notice. Could be the ADD. But my diagnoses might be in flux as I’m shrink-less at the moment. I’m “too complicated” and no one seems to know what to do with me.

    I should go back and read your link but I can’t focus on much right now but I wanted to leave a comment. I have a lot of things to read but reading is actually difficult for me sometimes as well–not on a comprehension level, of course but re: attention.

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Hi, I'm James. I'm a 26 year old guy from England with bipolar disorder (currently well controlled). I also have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder (not so well controlled). This blog has charted my journey from mental illness, through diagnosis and, recently, into recovery. It's not always easy, but then, what is?

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