Friday, April 01, 2016

Depression is not productive

On this April Fool's Day, I feel like stating the obvious: depression is not productive. At the age of 49 and three quarters, I'm still learning how to manage my chronic depression, which sometimes gets triggered by a specific circumstance, but often shows up with no cause at all. I just wake up with it, like a bad back or arthritis.

But one piece of the puzzle might have finally fallen into place: sugar as a trigger for depression. After the holidays (I was good leading up to them, but not after), I slid into the habit of indulging in sweet snacks, desserts and sugary hot drinks. January and February were also difficult months for me in terms of my depression. I thought my sweet tooth kicked up as a response to feeling down. You know: depressives often use sugar or alcohol as a way to (pretend to) manage our mood. I was on the sugar roller coaster from New Year's Day til Valentine's Day and felt like crap the whole time.

On Valentine's Day I kicked myself in the butt and made myself stop all the indulging. That decision led to a very tough 24-hour period of white-knuckling through the sugar cravings, but I made it, and after a week of eating/drinking much better -- guess what? The depression lifted.

Thus does it come clear that sugar not only causes me joint inflammation, digestive pain and awful energy swings, but it exacerbates my mood disorder. I know I've read this connection in countless articles by health professionals, but I clearly needed to live it before it sank in. Well, now it has sunk in! 

So now when I face a cookie or a squadron of yogurt-covered raisins, I not only consider how it might ruin my energy for the afternoon or cause a stomach ache, but I consider that it might lead me back into cravings/indulging and that will land me back into a depressive state. Ugh.

(The over-marketing of sugar has to be one of the most physiologically destructive things ever done by the American food industry. I believe we are all hooked and we are all suffering for it.)

Depression is truly the last thing I need right now. As I continue to build networking relationships and visibility for Welcome Dialogue, it's critical that I attend weekly events, meet daily with colleagues, keep active online and fill my head with lesson plan ideas, marketing techniques and hope. Establishing a new business is an uphill climb, which makes despondency deadlier than ever.

It's particularly important for me to keep my spirits up because my business is within an industry that's so new, it doesn't even have an easily recognizable name. When you're pioneering a new concept, the difficulties of establishing recognition and clients are doubled. We could call what I'm doing immigrant integration or diversity management or American acculturation for the foreign-born or American language and culture consulting. The old words like "foreigners" and "assimilation"and "melting pot" do not work anymore, but not everyone knows that, so part of what I do is educate people on these terms and concepts. 

So getting Welcome Dialogue started is like climbing a steep hill while collecting rocks. When I network with American-born professionals (and I'm one, too), I have to regularly explain what I do and why it's even important. Many Americans have no idea what it's like to be the outsider who must learn a new language or risk unemployment, poverty, social isolation and daily humiliation. I help people not only with the mechanics of American English, but with the culture and social skills you need to connect with Americans, plus the emotional challenges of adjusting to a culture you didn't grow up with. Only people who have lived this or know people who have, immediately understand what Welcome Dialogue is about. Others require varying amounts of explaining.

Once a middle-aged, Midwestern-born, white man asked me to tell him what was so hard about moving to the U.S. from another country. He honestly couldn't imagine why that adjustment would be anything but smooth and comfortable. I took the time to explain it to him, but it exemplified the extra work it takes to found a company in such a new field.

This means I have no time for depression, no time for energy drags and, therefore, no time for sugar. Maybe I can take up smoking...

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