Avoid comfort — that’s the provocative advice that Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind is handing out this morning. Essentially, he’s arguing that if you feel comfortable and satisfied in life, you’re not pushing yourself and pursuing your dreams. The art of pursuing your dreams is intrinsically uncomfortable, he writes, so you should be anxious, even afraid, a good amount of the time.
I’m drawn to this suggestion, since I know that I get a heck of a lot more done when I’m dissatisfied and pushing myself. Witness this blog, which came about as a direct result of leaving a happy but complacent state and moving into a state of perpetual restless desire. And I often do feel anxious and unhappy when I’m socializing, for example, or engaging in other activities that I need to do but dread.
On the other hand, when you spend a lot of your time fighting the grinding misery of depression, it’s tough to get all excited about seeking out more unpleasant emotions. I think that for me, and perhaps for most bipolar and depressive folks, Mead’s advice applies only when we’re at our most healthy. I do believe that I need to push myself constantly in order to accomplish anything; it’s just that what I accomplish — keeping a job, having a friend or two, seeking a stable relationship — may look a lot more basic from the outside. I wanted to be a superstar for many years. Now I would settle for that “normal” life, simply since it seems to be out of reach for me. Perhaps achieving what looks like complacent normalcy is hard enough for some of us.
On the subject of happiness, JD at Get Rich Slowly, reviews Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar, a book that I bought when it came out and still haven’t gotten around to reading. It sounds worth the time, though — the mental wellness techniques that JD singles out from the book are things that I’ve always advocated and tried to practice. Keeping a gratitude list, in particular, has benefited me recently; I intend to write more about it soon.
I came across Farewell Prozac via Furious Seasons, which supplies so many excellent links. The author of Farewell Prozac is struggling with quitting SSRIs (the family of drugs that began with Prozac and has given us such commonly prescribed drugs as Zoloft and Paxil). Going off of SSRIs is no party; there’s evidence that SSRI withdrawal may be significantly worse than going off of benzodiazapines, which are notoriously habit-forming. Certainly when I’ve run out of my SSRI accidentally, I’ve felt like fried shit. It will be interesting, then, to follow the travails and, I hope, triumph, of this excellent writer.
I took a long break from The Simple Dollar because I felt like he frequently ignored or even insulted single people without kids, and that’s a sore spot with me when it comes to personal finance bloggers. He’s tempted me back, though, and I’m glad, if only for this post on spending and mood. The author has noticed that he spends more money in the fall simply because his wife and kids are out of the house more; he believes on some level that this spending will make him miss them less. Like so many of us, though, he’s a recovering spendthrift, and he quickly realizes that buying a board game actually makes him less happy, though he subconsciously believed as he bought it that it would somehow help him to share more good times with his family.
As I’ve remarked before in this space, I often wonder how much of my struggle with overspending has to do with depression and mania, and how much is simply normal in this cancerous consumer culture. This post helped me to see that my spending isn’t that unusual, and, if I become more conscious of my motives, I can almost certainly control it.
So those are the links for the day; many aren’t specifically related to bipolar disorder, but all of them got me thinking more about aspects of my illness.
Love to all.