Way too many stupid little things have gone wrong in the last couple of days. I don't intend to make a habit of this kind of post, but I'm in the kind of mood where I think getting this off my chest will help a bit. You are of course welcome to skip if you find whiny posts annoying. In any case I need distraction more than I need hugs, so probably the best thing you can do for me is to tell me something interesting rather than feeling obliged to express sympathy over the stupid annoying stuff.
Yesterday I was nauseous for absolutely no reason. And I kept spacing out slightly. Possibly conntected to this, I managed to lose my wallet. Someone found it, and handed it in to the department admin person. She told my boss who told me, which left me feeling extremely embarrassed; I didn't need him to know that I'm that dopey. And while the finder was honest enough to return the wallet with all the important stuff intact, they were also dishonest enough to steal all the cash from it.
I decided to leave work early and put in a couple of hours writing my labtalk before going out in the evening. In the event, I failed to do any work and failed to get out of the house. I know it's not helpful to beat myself up over that, but it really was an incredibly stupid thing to do, especially as it meant missing an event I'd been looking forward to.
Today I got up early to go to synagogue for the start of the new month, even though it was cold and wet and dark. The first thing that happened was the zip on my winter coat broke, so I was left with a padded jacket which I love because it is so brightly coloured, but it's not waterproof or really warm enough for a real winter. (Thankfully at the moment it's merely damp and miserable, not actually cold, but I don't expect we have many more weeks of grace.) Then there were problems with the trains so I spent ages hanging around the station, getting colder and wetter and later for the service. When I eventually got there there were fewer than 10 people so we couldn't do anything useful anyway.
There are people not only in the world but on my friends list who have actual problems. I don't have the personality to find this cheering, but rather it depresses me further. Also, there are some discussions going on mostly around Jewish stuff that I want to get into but I suspect I'm going to end up on the opposite side to people I care about. The kind of mood I'm in I'm likely to say something hurtful.
I don't know what's wrong with me; little things like this, plus some of my experiments not working as I'd hoped, don't usually get me down. It's not even a matter of counting my blessings, because pretty much every measurable parameter in my life is near-perfect. Maybe it's the darkness, though as yet it's not darker here than it was in Dundee in the depths of winter. Maybe it's culture shock; it's a classic thing for immigrants to be miserable a few months after moving to a new country, when the novelty has worn off but they haven't yet settled. My best guess is a kind of loneliness; I'm too far away from most of my friends (though ploni_bat_ploni has been a pillar, and without her I really would be going mad). And because I'm miserable I don't find the energy to fight against the oppressiveness of geography by keeping in regular contact by email and phone and IM.
Anyway, I must get back to work before I waste another day and have yet another reason to be angry at myself.
And while the finder was honest enough to return the wallet with all the important stuff intact, they were also dishonest enough to steal all the cash from it.
Sorry to hear about that, that sucks. It might be a good idea to notify your bank/credit card people that there's a possibility that somebody has seen and noted your card numbers, if they were in there. The bank might advise you to cancel your cards and replace them. This will be a bit of a pain for a few days, but will protect you from online fraud if your cards were in there.
This is good advice, but it's yet another of those things that I would do without even thinking about it at home, but here it's a massive hassle because it requires me to find out how the procedure works and deal with the language issue etc. I'm pretty convinced the person didn't steal my cards. pseudomonas thinks it might have been a different person who took the money from the one who handed the wallet in. But it really looks like the action of a student who saw free money lying around and couldn't resist the temptation, but who doesn't know enough about criminality and probably has enough of a residual conscience to stop short of taking the cards. I mean, a real thief would have got rid of the wallet, not handed it in! The thing was also returned to me within a maximum of five minutes of losing it.
I don't know what's wrong with me; little things like this, plus some of my experiments not working as I'd hoped, don't usually get me down. It's not even a matter of counting my blessings, because pretty much every measurable parameter in my life is near-perfect. Maybe it's the darkness, though as yet it's not darker here than it was in Dundee in the depths of winter.
I suspect lots of little things that would not normally get you down are, combined together, having that effect under the influence of SAD. SAD, in my experience, is not about being depressed for no reason, it's about having a lower threshold to minor causes inducing depression. I prescribe a course of long walks at lunchtime, plus SAD-busting bright lights.
(Note: I have no idea how much light is enough to induce SAD, but last January going from cycling half an hour to work in bright daylight, but back at night, to cycling both to and from work either side of sunrise/sunset, cured me pretty much overnight.) )
Seasonal affective disorder. Bright lights keeps you happy. In winter you don't get enough of it, and many people get depressed; it's particularly a problem in far northern countries such as Scandinavia.
That's why I'm getting up at 6:30 atm—so I can cycle to work and back in daylight. I started doing this last year because it was depressing (in the loose sense of feeling unhappy in the short-term) cycling home in the darkness, but discovered to my surprise it made me much chirpier. After Limmud I couldn't be bothered, and reverted to getting up at the normal time. After two or three weeks, I found I was getting depressed at minor things; so I switched back to getting up early and my depression vanished pretty much overnight.
In the middle of winter in London there was not enough daylight to be able to get a full working day in this way, so I took to alternating between short cycling days and long Tube days to make up for them. In Scandinavia this problem would be even worse (and not as easily solved).
Walking outside at lunchtime is supposed to help some. Bright full-spectrum lamps early in the morning are actually a prescribed treatment. You look at them for half an hour (or just have them on while you eat breakfast and read the newspaper) and the symptoms are supposed to get better. The winter darkness here is not nearly so bad as where you are, so I am not so much affected. But I know so many people who are getting some benefit from light treatment, and I am having so many coping difficulties generally...that I finally decided to try it anyhow.
I don't know what the local division is between pharmacies, health food stores, and stores that sell gadgets...but I would suggest inquiring at a store that sells vaporizers. They might not sell light boxes, or the full-spectrum light bulbs for use in ordinary lamps (which are a little less effective and a lot cheaper), but they will probably know where you can find them.
I really can't tell whether I might have anything SAD-like, because I'm so light-sensitive that there's a negative reaction to going out in daylight very much getting in the way of being able to tell; how much of my being more cheerful in Montreal is because of being further south, how much because the variety of weather is more cheerful than grey and pouring rain most of the time, and how much because of all the other ways in which Montreal is so much cooler than anywhere else on the planet I have ever lived, is impossible to judge.
By the way, I really like the way that my journal has got to the point where I can post something whiny, and then go away and work for a few hours, and when I come back, you guys are all having an interesting discussion among yourselves. That's cool, and thank you for starting it.
SAD is "seasonal affective disorder". It's the way lack of daylight affects the mood. There are different definitions of it, but it may affect as many as 20% of people who live in the far North (or South).
This is a good suggestion, and thank you. I know you've got good results from increasing your daylight exposure. I'm experimenting a bit with going into work later so my morning commute is in daylight. (To do that with my evening commute would mean leaving at 2 pm, which isn't realistic, though I'm doing so on Fridays.) I personally suspect it's more culture shock and some kind of quarter-life crisis crap than SAD, but certainly it's worth thinking about.
Philosophically, it's an interesting thought, the idea that knowing that other people are suffering could cause you feel cheered because you're not. Or, at least, not as badly. I don't know if I've ever felt that way, or even if I do feel that way sometimes without ever naming the thoughts, but just now - other people's struggles, and the trials that people are forced to suffer because of where they're born, or where they live, or the colour of their skin doesn't cause me to be thankful that I don't have those problems, but to feel hopeless because I can't change the magnitude of pain in the world. And to feel selfish for saying that my traumas are important when they pale into insignificance against those of half the world. And helpless because I can't even imagine the depths which people are forced to reach when fighting for strength to live and then to cope with living. And if it's people that I know - well then, any attempt to empathise with the pain makes it mine too. I find sharing pain much easier than sharing joy. For now.
Thank you for this, you've expressed my thoughts really well. I don't think the idea is that you're supposed to gloat because your life isn't as miserable as someone else's, it's more that you are supposed to get a sense of perspective and realize that you're letting something get you down which you don't need to. But it doesn't work like that for me, because I also just feel defeated by how little I can do about all the bad stuff. Also, it's human nature to care more about your own problems than other people's, about the problems of those close to you more than the problems of any random person in the world. I don't believe I need to feel guilty about that.
It's often possible to get a cleaner/tailor to fix or replace a zipper, for significantly less than the cost of a new jacket. (I had the zipper on my down parka replaced twice, before concluding that it's lost enough feathers over the years to no longer be quite the thing for a Montreal winter, though probably sufficient here, and buying a new parka.)
Thanks, good suggestion. My problem at the moment is not primarily money; in fact, I was intending anyway to go and buy a real winter coat before the Real Winter comes. I've already had a few days when my clothes bought in temperate Britain were inadequate, and I'm sure there will be more before spring. The problem is finding time and energy to go shopping (and also the immediate issue of having to out yesterday morning and today likewise in the rain, wearing a non-waterproof and unhooded jacket.)
I also have a hooded jacket that I picked up second-hand for CAN$7.50; I think it wound up at the thrift store because the zipper broke, but it still has perfectly good snaps to close by. It's no longer as snug, which is part of why I didn't take papersky's suggestion that it would do as my winter jacket (the other part is that, being old and worn, it no longer has legible content labels, which makes it hard to guess how warm it will be, and I didn't want to find out too late that it's not up to Montreal winters); I'm debating whether to get a new zipper put in. That decision can wait. (The thing is really too big for me, but it's a glorious purple: either she or zorinth spotted the color and called my attention to it.
I'll go with the SAD idea. It's not just about the darkness, but when the darkness is at a particular stage in the day. It may well have been darker in Dundee in the depths of winter, but what kind of daylight hours are they getting there now?
Don't underestimate the effect of being an expat. Even though you seem to have done a marvellous job of settling in and dealing with the hiccoughs so far, the process of settling in takes years - I'm learning this the hard way, still.
Last week, especially the weekend, was absolutely rotten for me. I couldn't get any work done, I hardly left the house and it was all just BLAAAAAAAGH. Thankfully a friend insisted I stay at her's on Sunday night, and she took me back into the city on Monday morning. It was a bit of a kick start so that I could get back on track.
I'd suggest getting into the fresh air as much as possible, and having a really varied timetable of stuff to do. Oh, and tea. Indulge yourself in tea. But not so much chocolate.
Thank you, all these points are sensible, and it helps that you know so well what I'm talking about. When I was talking this through with a friend yesterday I realized that the light is bluer here, so maybe even though I'm getting as many hours of daylight as I would have in Dundee, I'm possibly not getting the right wavelengths to have the happy effect. I think culture shock is probably a big part of what's wrong with me, though.
Fresh air is always a good idea. I think even in the dark it's good to get outdoors. Tea, of course tea, even I thought of that. And I don't have a problem with medicinal chocolate, myself. I know I'm "overweight" as these things are measured, but I have enough food taboos already from religion without taking on all the secular ones as well.
*hug* Is that not where we went before when I came to visit you in 2000 or so? The synagogue here is very beautiful too, but unfortunately from my point of view it looks like a very beautiful cathedral and not much like a synagogue. Anyway, the idea of coming to visit you again (down with dirty rotten geography!) is a very cheering thought, so thank you.
Err. It might be? Though it didn't look familiar when I went inside. My knowledge of SF geography is way more extensive now than it used to be, however, so I could easily have been there once and not remembered it.
Great large domed building that looks inside as though it's made of sandstone, with green marble columns. The ark sits under a fantastic pyramidal shape.
Awww! Livredor! I feel bad for you. That sucks. All those "little" things are not so little when you're feeling vunerable. *Hugs* Now I understand why you posted what you posted on my LJ. I was wondering what happened to you.
I hear you. I miss my friends too. I display hugely irresponsible behaviour by staying up late at night. The darkness is actually making me do that: my biorhythm's screwed and my body says: "5 p.m., 11 p.m. or 3 a.m., what's the difference? It's pitch black anyway" and that only makes it worse. Do you have that too? I'm also suffering from loneliness and crap in general without being sick actually, so I can't call in sick, either!
I think it's the darkness combined with stress. The darkness is really doing our heads in. Maybe the nausea is stress-related. Remember when you had it a few weeks ago? It's so easy to get stuck in this stupid cycle. We have to find was to cheer ourselves (and each other) up.
I haven't been to minyan for 1 1/2 weeks now and my davening sucks. Which is not about Halacha really, but more about my crappy, non-spiritual state of mind. When I feel down, the davening comes apart. It's like my head fills itself with redundant grey cottonwool. So don't feel bad about minyan: you're not the only one whose been missing.
I wish I could make you feel better. Being immigrants in Sweden in the winter is tough, huh?
I want to invite you for Shabbos dinner but give you your space if you need it. I can't have you for Shabbos lunch because David's coming Saturday afternoon. (Atleast that's a good thing!). It's up to you, ok? Just holler.
Big hug. And kvetch away on LJ. That's what LJ is for :-) And let me know if there's anything I can do. If you wanna hang out (or not), talk (or not)... I'm still available tonight, tomorrow night and Thursday night, if you want a change of scenery.
Thank you. You really do make me feel better by being there and being a friend and providing hugs. I definitely wish you didn't understand so well what I'm going through, but all the same, the understanding helps.
*Huggles* Definitely, let's get together this week.
On the contrary, your journal is very interesting! I'm so excited to read about your adventures with the media, and your insights into really obscure corners of how Judaism works. And sofrut. I am so proud of you, you know!
since you said that the darkness isn't as yet any worse than where you used to live, i'd not exactly rule out SAD, but i'd be less inclined to think that's it. while it affects a fair number of people, it doesn't affect everyone. but it's also pretty easily treated, and if you get yourself a lightbox, you'll be able to find out whether you've got it, and that'll deal with it.
you've already mentioned it yourself, but the ex-pat thing would have been my guess. what you are describing is very similar to how i felt in sweden after a few months. at first everything was exciting and new, and i was also exciting and new for people, but all of that mutual NRE wore off, my friends who had been there initially as well went back home, and i found myself alone _and_ with major shortcomings in the language department. alone i can handle, though it was a little more alone than even this hermit prefers. but not being able to participate fully in the intellectual life of the city was _frustrating_, dealing with everyday grinding bureaucratic things in a language i spoke so badly was _wearying_, and it was the first time i had been in that position and i didn't have good coping skills for it, nor did i want to impose on local people any more than i already had.
mostly what i can say about it is "this too shall pass". things changed slowly as my knowledge of swedish increased, and i began to really know my way around. if i were to do something similar now, i'd keep a public journal about my experiences, and i'd have a digital camera with which i'd take pictures to share with my far-away friends. even when miserable, i can usually manage a short journal entry and/or a picture. when i moved to the US, which was pre-www, i took pictures and made tapes for people, commenting on all the weird stuff i saw while walking the streets, recording the many different sounds around me. all that made me much more conscious of what was around me, made me learn more about it, and made me appreciate it more. and it occupied me while out and in amongst all the strangeness, making me a bit more of a part of it.
i didn't think i had anything to add here, but this last paragraph stuck out for me. i did something similar when i lived in vancouver, although i know it's not culturally very different, i took photos everyday, and stayed out a lot (daytime and night-time) exploring. i know it's cold and dark where you are so this makes it practically more difficult, but i think having comfortable outdoor clothing, a good warm jacket, might actually be more important than you realise. and i am sure that as the language barrier reduces things will be better.
on the other hand when i was away i stayed in contact with very few of my friends from home (just 2 i think, and those rather sporadically) and basically immersed myself in being over there. i developed different coping mechanisms for whatever moods i was having. it worked for me. a friend who came back recently from 3 years working in Eritrea (having spent the previous 25 years in middle-south England) only came back once in that time. (she did eventually return married though, so i'm not sure that's a particularly good example!)
out of interest - are you planning on living alone long-term? i've always found that housemates are good for stability and coping and distraction, even if i'm not friends with them (as long as we don't really dislike each other).