Can We Choose to Fall Out of Love?

“I had the opportunity to better understand love – even the compulsive parts. It isn’t a neat symmetrical Valentine’s heart. It’s bodily, it’s systemic, it’s a hideous pair of Rams horns buried somewhere deep within your skull [caudate] and when that special boy walks by it lights up! And if he likes you back, and you make each other happy then you fan the flames… and if he doesn’t, then you assemble a team of neuroscientists to snuff them out by force.”

One of the best presented psychological talks… by singer and rapper Dessa.

silent depression

7 Behaviors That Reveal Someone Is Silently Depressed

Silent depression can be very common in this fast-paced world. Of the (underestimated) 350 million in the world who experience depression, a large portion might not seek out help due to shame, embarrassment, pride, culture, or lack of available resources.

I felt a strong compulsion to share this article from Power of Positivity because it hits very close to home.  I experienced nearly all of these symptoms from July to September of this year: even though my mom had passed months prior, my mind and body were able to hold on for nearly seven months before I collapsed under the weight of climbing work expectations, managing my mom’s scattered estate, dealing with personal grief, and navigating complex interpersonal relationship stresses following my return from the Philippines. In addition to the symptoms below: I also experienced a pretty heavy dose of brain fog, which made it impossible to be productive for even a couple hours at a time.

Common symptoms of silent depression:

  1. Withdrawal from activities, work, or school
  2. No energy
  3. Eating too much or too little
  4. Trouble sleeping
  5. Substance abuse
  6. Faking emotions
  7. Workaholic

For me, not many people noticed – not right away at least. The lack of structure at work made it easy for me to drop off the grid, citing working remotely. I kept up with my social calendar as a feeble attempt at counteract these symptoms with a bit of extroversion. Being alone was crushing, but given everyone knew that “this year was eventful”, my “off-ness” seemed to be more or less normative.

I did not realize the extent to my own suffering until my absence from work finally became a noticeable issue to my mentors,  and I was forced to confront the fact I’d emotionally run myself dry. By the end: I hadn’t seen my office in weeks, my apartment was a smelly mess (I’m still dealing with pesky fruitflies that won’t go away), my relationship had crashed to rock bottom, I’d lost meaningful connections, and I hadn’t kept up with my finances – made more complicated from all my travel this year.

I had the immense luck of being around 2-3 genuine good souls to finally reach out to, even if I didn’t have a tight relationship with them right away. One simple conversation and coffee started a few more, and then tinier, progressive steps to getting the personal and professional support I needed. It’s been two months since taking a step toward mental health healing, and I’m so glad I did it.

A small check-in or expressing that you’ve been thinking about someone could be the difference. I know it was for me.

 

 

Links

7 Signs of Silent Depression: https://www.powerofpositivity.com/behaviors-silently-depressed/?fbclid=IwAR1mqm6KUrVePy0ThH3wQ50mpNndshwKv0QGRtjElLE29yuWEKpjCiIKLwU

Brain Fog: A Symptom of Depression: https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/symptoms/brain-fog-a-symptom-of-depression

Greenberg et al., (2015). The economic burden of adults iwth Major Depressive Disorder in the United States (2005 and 2010). Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 76(2), 155-162. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2a0f/0218f857e39e2576a024e1c484c9edc1a9e7.pdf

Germany 2018

The highlight of my summer (which given all my travel says something) was a month-long excursion away from San Diego into West Germany and Bavarian country.

The original purpose was to attend the First International Spring School on Resilience Research, a five-day workshop hosted by intresa, or the International Resilience Research Alliance, housing twelve universities in Europe. I found out later the workshop was an intresa networking workshop for postdocs and trainees. So how did I found about it? A chance conversation with Raffael Kalisch on ResearchGate after stumbling upon his theory paper in Nature Human Behaviour! LOLS 🙂 What was initially a five-day trip turned into a nearly three-week excursion, with the workshop capped before and after with visits to Dr. Kalisch’s lab.

Whoever says that researchgate.net doesn’t work
OBVIOUSLY didn’t spark an international collaboration
and mentorship in a weekend!! #BOOYAH

It would be the longest time spent away for work – one entire month. I paid the big bucks to snag a premium economy seat and was so worth it: leg room, full meals, unlimited drinks and snacks.

Arrival

I arrived 9am in Frankfurt greeted by Ayline, the friend of a postdoc colleague I met here in UCSD (thanks Martin and Natalie!). She was so nice, and her son Benedict was adorable! 🙂 She had an entire trip already planned at Heidelberg Castle, one hour south of Frankfurt. It was absolutely surreal, knowing that in the span of three hours I’d gone from sitting in a cramped business compartment to overlooking the German countryside from this vantage point:

 

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Ayline funded a tour of the castle – my first in Europe – and I got my initial taste of old German folklore and history outside of Berlin.

 

Heidelberg continued to be absolutely beautiful from above…

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…so much so that Ayline, Benedict and I strolled down into the city and had lunch out on the square.

I admit, I overdid it: a full schnitzel plate, cappuccino, and a heavy lager mixed with airport food = one TOUGH ride back through Frankfurt rush hour traffic!  😦 😦 I’d originally wanted to stay close to the city for a day excursion. Instead, I spent most of my time in Kelsterbach wandering around the tiny neighborhood looking for an open Apotheke for my stomach-in-duress.

Things I learned that day: Everything in Germany closes early, around 5 or 6pm, and there are not many commercial places to just sit, unless it’s a beer or ice cream with a group of friends who never look at technology.

What I did enjoy in this one night here was a lovely couple traveling through Europe. They’d been on the road for nearly 2 months with their very bright son in tow. We talked a lot about Texas and Avengers: Infinity War before we said goodbye – by this point, I was dead tired.

 

Mainz

The next day I took the train into Mainz, where I’d be staying for the next week. The city of Mainz is absolutely GORGEOUS. Also small. I’d gotten lost on the way to my AirBnB and didn’t realize I trekked half the city! The condo was owned by a really nice and quirky (see her décor below) lady named Birgit who stayed in the living room while I took over her bedroom. She also prepared coffee and left it outside my door every morning! 😊

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I took the opportunity to waltz around a bit, using the city’s main cathedral as a directional marker.  Situated at the heart of the city center, you can see this looming tower from every main road. When I finally saw it in all its glory, it was stunning:

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Here, the traditional 16th-17th century roads of Germany still remain somewhat intact, surviving the damage of WWII in a way the streets near the hauptbanhof did not. Wooden beams and bright colors adorned the homes that lined the cobblestone streets. And everywhere were tourists and locals with ice cream in their hands, enjoying the warm weather and each other’s company.

 

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Nowhere did I see a phone or laptop out – public WiFi is a rarity, and overuse looked down upon by its residents. Here, the spirit of Germany remained firmly in its traditional roots. A part of me hated its inefficiency for an plugged-in, American, obsessed scholar like me. However, the work-weary soul in me reveled in the magic of a different world, at least for an evening.

 

University of Mainz

The second reason for this trip was to visit the research team of Raffael Kalisch at Johannes Gutenberg University Medical Center. It was part of a grant writing risk I took (and ultimately lost ☹) that would’ve given me $3000 in travel funding. For me to be eligible, the grant required me to establish an international mentor and visit their lab for one week, so who better to visit in Germany than the German Resilience Center, the Mecca of all International Resilience Research in all of Europe? 😊

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I was quickly blown away by the sophistication of their work, leagues ahead of the current and scattered resilience efforts in the States. The range of their research designs span from a novel theoretical framework, and experimental investigations of mechanisms, to large-scale, observational cohort studies in the community. Their outcome variables are a wide range of fMRI to biomarker data. I also witnessed the defense of an incredibly bright graduate student and celebrated with the rest of the team:

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I didn’t know that imposter syndrome could recur so quickly, but oh, it did.

For a little bit we didn’t know what to with me. There was a lot of work I wasn’t familiar with, and after awhile I ended up just speaking with every single member of the research team and listened as they spoke about their own piece of research. One such colleague was named Elena, who despite doing animal/mice research (suuuuuper far from my own area of work), I clicked with pretty well interpersonally, and we spent the rest of my week preparing for the workshop.

 

1st International Spring School on Resilience Research – Seeon

Kloster Seeon was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS, and I was deadset on waking up at some point in the morning to snag a sunrise picture. Problem was, sunrise was around 5am, which made it quite challenging 😀 Luckily, Elena was a heavy sleeper and by this point a good friend. I got up early nearly everyday to capture this incredible view:

SUNRISE:

 

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DAYTIME:

 

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SUNSET:

 

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Each day we sat down for a morning talks with leading researchers in resilience. For the first time I was also introduced to animal model research, which was great exposure for someone in data-world far too long. In the afternoons, we would work with 3-4 other researchers (animal- and human-researchers alike) to come up with a resilience related study that integrated our interests. Poster sessions rounded out further discussion of our work.

One night was a cultural night, where we wore or brought something that represented our culture. Before I left, I bought a contemporary alampay to wear to show off my Filipino heritage:

And naturally, I paired it with an obnoxious cowboy hat to show off my Texan roots:

The rest of the nights were spent walking or biking around Seeon, a homely little town around the lake. Luckily, there were many other German resilience researchers that I could latch onto to help me navigate the restaurants, as we were DEEP in the heart of Bavaria – it was very, very obvious that I was often the only non-white, non-German speaker in the room!

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Munich

Instead of going straight back to Mainz, I decided to spend the weekend in Munich. I was a little nervous, considering I was on my own again. Unfortunately, my AirBnB host was the inflexible and unforgiving type of Bavarian – I got to his apartment twenty minutes late, and climbed five flights of steep stairs with VERY heavy luggage, just to arrive to a very long scolding about punctuality, courtesy, and disrespect ☹.

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I made sure not to talk to him after that.

Besides my AirBnB host, I actually had a fantastic time.  I met with up with Sanne and Anna at Hofbrauhaus, the largest brewhouse in all of Germany.

I decided off the cuff to devote an entire dayto Dachau Concentration Camp. I’m really, really glad I did. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, very local, and very… very… socialist, lol. I had the improbable fortune of meeting another couple from Texas on the tour – they did not like him. Surprising…

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It is very surreal to stand in the location of stories you only heard from textbooks and in historical fiction – horrors so distanced from your reality that you realize actually happened —  right under your feet. Dachau KZ was the first established concentration camp, and thus the first/central hub of the medical horrors that occurred from the Holocaust.

The remainder of my time I spent walking all around the City Center of Munich, shopping unashamedly for European summer fashion, and also a little bit of old Bavaria as well 😊

 

I snuck a few pictures of dirndl and a Weste Ricardo vest and other Trachten jackets, though I didn’t have enough courage (or spending money) to grab one of these awesome dresses!

One night I made my way to Englischer Gartens, a beautiful, green retreat that I wish I could’ve spent a leisurely jog through. Instead, I sat with the ducks and watched the sun set:

 

CRAZY PDA SHOUTOUT: In pure German fashion, there are few commercial places that open on a Sunday, and my only available option was an outdoor McDonald’s a block away. I remember this morning so clearly because, while I sat outside sipping coffee at 8am, the rest of my friends were currently at a raging house party (~11pm) hosted by my friend Alex; many of them incessantly messaged me about the fun times I was missing out on! Thanks Andrew, Tony and Sunny for the intense FOMO!!! 😀

 

University of Mainz – Part II

Returning to Mainz I had a lot of buzz in my head from the week I spent in resilience world. There was so much I wanted to do, but had to tell myself I needed to get the right foundation before I did.

This time, my AirBnB was a wonderfully spacious (and vacant) one-bedroom apartment on the South side of Mainz. It was farther away from the city, but right at the edge of campus. I enjoyed this setup way more – less cramped and with a GORGEOUS view from its living room window:

I spent the remaining four days catching up with each student about additional work, and also hung out with Elena a few more times. I also took the opportunity to shop, with a lot of fashion-forward clothing that I’m SUPER glad I splurged on!

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As much as I enjoyed Mainz, I could feel right around the third- to second-to-last day that I was ready to go home. I’d exhausted most of the resources that were available to share in the lab and I was also running very behind on my work at home. As sad I was to leave the beauty of Germany, I’d also missed the company of friends, particularly those that I would’ve liked to experience Germany with me.

 

 

 

Suffice it to say, I was incredibly happy to see Nathan’s Challenger on the side of the road when I stepped out of DFW airport. I would spend one more weekend with him before I went back to San Diego… already June!

For Las Vegas: on terror, grief, and resilience

It is increasingly difficult to witness so many reminders demonstrating the need for my area of research. I can’t fathom the experience of what so many family and friends and attendees of the concert in Las Vegas are going through. I am horrified by the increasing amount of people who have to deal with the trauma of terror in this country. These heartbreaking disasters have become too normal, and hearing too often about terror has become too hard.

My thoughts and grief are with the people of Las Vegas today. For the rest of us witnessing events unfold indirectly, here are critical and practical points to help process the stress, brought to you empirically after years of anxiety and helplessness from these familiar situations:

  1. Feel the feelings instead of reacting to them.* When we are able to make room for feeling anxious and use simple tools like breathing into the discomfort without trying to get rid of it, we eventually calm down.
  2. Talk about it. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Receiving support and care can be comforting and reassuring. It often helps to speak with others who have shared your experience so you do not feel so different or alone.
  3. Strive for balance. When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that viewpoint by reminding yourself of people and events which are meaningful and comforting, even encouraging. Striving for balance empowers you and allows for a healthier perspective on yourself and the world around you.
  4. Turn it off and take a break. You may want to keep informed, but try to limit the amount of news you take in whether it’s from the Internet, television, newspapers or magazines. While getting the news informs you, being overexposed to it can actually increase your stress. The images can be very powerful in reawakening your feeling of distress. Also, schedule some breaks to distract yourself from thinking about the incident and focus instead on something you enjoy. Try to do something that will lift your spirits
  5. Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest and build physical activity into your day. Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can suppress your feelings rather than help you to manage and lessen your distress. In addition, alcohol and drugs may intensify your emotional or physical pain. Establish or re-establish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
  6. Help others or do something productive. Locate resources in your community on ways that you can help people who have been affected by this incident, or have other needs. Helping someone else often has the benefit of making you feel better, too.
  7. If you have recently lost friends or family in this or other tragedies. Remember that grief is a long process. Give yourself time to experience your feelings and to recover. For some, this might involve staying at home; for others it may mean getting back to your daily routine. Dealing with the shock and trauma of such an event will take time. It is typical to expect many ups and downs, including “survivor guilt” — feeling bad that you escaped the tragedy while others did not.

SOURCES: https://adaa.org/blog/dont-let-terrorism-hijack-your-brain; http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/mass-shooting.aspx

I am not as religious as I once was, but I have become more reliant on looking toward hope out of your control – having faith, essentially. Whether it is in the first responders who ran toward those who needed safety; to the medical personnel who (through primary sources) came in, even with a shift the next day, to care for the wounded; to the outpouring of grief and heartache from those who know too well of these horrors; and to those who wake up with the burden of feeling absolutely helpless; there will be fear and uncertainty, but also hope.

Thoughts and prayers to those most acutely affected. To the helpless who feel grief from the other side of our screens: hope, understanding, and healing.

The great Southwest migration: Part II

To cap off my recent post about my transition to San Diego, here are some of the more social (and interpersonal) lessons I’ve learned since arriving:

  • Capitalize on connections, even if it doesn’t feel like you should. I wanted, very much, to find my own place in SD. I’d never lived alone before, much less in a new city that doubled as a tourist attraction, and the prospect felt exhilarating. So, I initially blew off my mom’s insistence to find a Filipino friend-of-a-friend-of-an-aunt I could live with. Places like Northpark or Ocean Beach further south are full of people my age, and I searched for and even met a potential roommate. Things were going great.

    Turns out doing this is very, very expensive. Had I kept this route, I would’ve spent near $3000 by the time I’d arrived, starting out in (additional) crippling debt. I ended up renting a room in a large 4-bedroom house owned by my mom’s college best friend, in a far north suburb of San Diego called Ranchos Peñasquitos (PQ).

    For $600, I enjoy a large space, a golf course and fire pit in the backyard, and sometimes, already cooked meals 😊. Though this definitely helped the cost of moving, living in suburb central has its downsides…

  • You will get lonely. Even though I was in dissertation hell (and isolation) for months prior to moving, it was still comforting to know that I could call up any of my friends and meet them for a coffee. For the first three days in San Diego, the knowledge of having no one here to reach out to was isolating. Within hours of dropping my boyfriend off at the airport, the lack of familiarity around me was a cold introduction to an otherwise sunny city.

    Ironically, a timely media release discussing the adverse health effects of loneliness was the cherry on top of my boring first week. And since the findings are derived from meta-analyses, then it must be true (I joke, but this is as close as psychology gets to proving anything). Holt-Lunstad also posits from her research that by 2030, loneliness will be an epidemic, and AI will be critical to counteracting these effects. Helloo near future:Her---Hello-Samantha.jpeg
    It took a few chats with neighbors and acquaintances of my auntie’s family, all of whom made similar transitions, to let me know it was completely normal to feel so displaced, and to take it in stride. Quite embarrassing really, for someone who’s semi-trained in Acceptance Commitment Therapy (lols). A paraphrase:
    Accept your reactions and be present
    Choose a valued direction
    Take action.
    So…. I did. But not before some introspection…

  • You will learn how social you really are. For as long as I could remember, I considered myself a quiet and frankly, boring person. I never really talked much in groups, just enjoying the banter of a group while out. I joined a sorority in college, not just to break out of my shy shell, but to enjoy structure of a sisterhood to ease the friend-making process. Puzzling decision, sure, as I did feel obligated to stay up-to-date with topics I didn’t care much about, or adopt social graces for the sake of sociability (e.g., never say no to a fraternity invitation; of course we’re drinking at brunch) – though all that is its own story. For those passions separate from Greek life (watching, reading, and writing sci-fi, for instance), I happily ventured off to a coffee shop alone, where I felt I could be myself without consequence. For all these reasons, I’d developed a reputation as a fairly quiet, introverted person.
    Coming here alone, I realize how very misguided I was. I found out how much I enjoy being around others, even if it’s just quiet company. I’ve found conversations that I can talk about for ages with others who enjoy the same things.Though I need time to myself, too much alone time can be far worse. Turns out, these are classic “characteristics” of an ENFP and an “introverted extrovert”; in other words, I’m shy and quiet, but get my energy from being around others. If you’ve never heard of Myers-Briggs, take a look down below, and even test yourself out if you’re curious:MyersBriggsTypes
    Though the Myers-Briggs test has meandered into pop culture and away from its original intent (i.e., assessing one’s dynamic in a workplace setting), I gotta say it’s fairly spot on. You also can’t deny their enjoyable kitsch. A few memorable nerdy ENFP’s to which I’m affiliated: Arwen, Ron Weasley, Elsa, Professor X, Sue Storm, and Qui-Gonn Jinn. 🙂

 

  • You will find your niche… Fatally set into the role of an ENFP, I hated knowing that there were tons of people all over SD I’d probably vibe with, but with no way of accessing them. So, after a few days of little to no conversation, I started scouring http://meetup.com for potential events that I’d actually enjoy and to possibly meet like-minded people.
    Turns out San Diego has a thriving nerd culture that enjoy active lifestyles in their own right. On a Thursday night after a full week alone, I finally forced myself to drive 20 miles north to a science-oriented brewery out in Vista called Wavelength Brewing Company, where they were having an event about the solar eclipse. I ended up meeting my first friend in San Diego, and also scored eclipse glasses that saved my friends’ eyes as well as my own 🙂2017-07-27 18.56.30
    For the first few meetups, I had to swallow the fear that it could be a complete bust. So far, I’ve gone to five meetups, and I don’t regret any of them. Not that I expected to become close friends with every single person you meet (and you won’t), but at least I started to feel like I was interacting with SD. Most importantly, not only have I met new people, but it’s forced me to be comfortable in showing who I am as a person.It’s still a work in progress, but I’m enjoying my slow introduction here. I’ve met other postdocs, looked at the stars, watched 80’s movies, colored self-affirming NSFK coloring books, attended concerts of aspiring recording artists, stumbled upon bands, and felt the sand under my feet this past month. For one who should be spending their time writing (research papers) under a rock, I think I’m doing fairly well 🙂

 

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