Understanding Depression

I’ve written a lot about my personal experience with bi-polar depression in the past, more on Facebook than this fairly dormant blog.  Today however, I want to write specifically about general depression.  I think it’s important to understand the difference between the less common bi-polar version of depression and what is the more often observed “general” depression.

First, I want to make clear that I am no expert on this topic, no degrees, letters after my name, or other stuff that would make me qualified to write.  It’s just a subject I’m passionate about, because understanding it better has helped me in my life personally.  Also, conversations with others make me realize this topic is often misunderstood and something many people are not comfortable discussing whether it affects them or those they love.

Depression

Bi-polar depression is characterized by mood swings from very low such as feeling worthless, hopeless, unable or unwilling to get out of bed, abnormal quietness and withdrawing from social circles as examples.  The high mood swings can involve such things as rapid thoughts and communication, grandiose plans, believing you can do anything, talking all the time and poor judgment in financial or sexual decisions.  As someone who considers faith an important part of who I am, I’ve often likened the low cycles to “Wondering where God is” and the high cycles to “Believing I am God” – that sounds extreme, but mood swings often are.

Sometimes I feel we often try to be too specific and precise on defining mental health conditions, when there’s a lot we still do not understand.  I have come to view depression related illness more as a continuum.  Even people that are severely depressed often feel fine, even good.  Bi-polar is the good times becoming extreme, to the point that they often harm your life and those around you, generally at least as much as the depressive episodes.  There is not always a clear distinction where things might be “ok but difficult” and serious enough that the condition needs to be addressed more directly.

I’ve thought some about the what is “normal life” or what is depression?  First, I think we should recognize that all of us at various times often feel depressed based on events in life.  Maybe we made some mistakes and it’s something really major; like we find ourselves in jail or having our kids taken away.  Maybe we’ve watched a close friend or family member struggle with something, we’ve lost everything from a weather disaster or life is just hard.  Maybe someone we are close to has betrayed us or there is no money to pay the bills, many of these can be summed up by saying our expectations have not been met.  All of that can be depressing – if you read the symptoms I list earlier, or other common lists of depression symptoms I suspect each person reading this can find examples of those times in their lives.  Most of the time we “get over it”, life moves on, things return to a “new normal”, and everything is ok.  However, it is often my experience that the onset of depression stems from something that gives us legitimate reason to feel down and out, where what we had hoped for and the cards we have been dealt don’t match, and for whatever reason (something researchers are still trying to understand) we don’t “snap out of it” and the depressive feelings persist, usually getting worse.

A couple of personal tests I have for someone’s level of depression is when they feel they need to make a major life change (such as a job, relationship, moving, etc.) but yet when pressed there really is no hope that the change will bring any kind of improvement, just a feeling that what is going on now isn’t working.  Another is a difficulty in see anything positive in life, especially when presented with clearly positive information.  I believe the human mind has an incredible ability to “turn lemons into lemonade” and when that skill is almost completely lacking it can be a strong sign of depression.

One of the hardest aspects of someone who is depressed is the feeling of hopelessness that makes it difficult to get the help that is often readily available.  Understanding of depression in the last few decades has increased tremendously and there are numerous medical options available.  Knowing exactly what works and the interactions involved can be difficult though, and often the first med or two tried is not effective, which can increase the despair that the situation truly is hopeless.  Professional counseling is also available, and can be a very helpful thing.  Space does not allow me to write about this in more detail, especially because there is one final “treatment” that I think it most helpful, yet can be the hardest to implement.

Much research verifies that as people, we are “relational” – we desire relationships with others at various levels (family, significant others, friends, co-workers).  It’s those relationships that I believe tend to make us human, and bring out the best in us.  Depression not only makes us personally pull away from those relationships, but there’s also the sad reality that most of us don’t want to be around a “downer” – we want to be around people that are fun, that smile and laugh, that make life enjoyable.. and that is the polar opposite of someone struggling with depression.  So we tend to not include them, to stay away, to tell them to get over it.  Unfortunately, that can just make the cycle worse.

If your reading this and your depressed, I can’t tell you to “get over it”.  I absolutely get that doesn’t fix anything, and you might not even be willing to acknowledge that you are.  The people I want to speak to here are those who know someone who may be depressed and are wondering what to do.  It’s really simple – overlook the negatives, ignore the temptation to try to “fix” anything.. the best fix is just to love, to care, to continue to treat someone, as down and out as they may be, as the incredible person they really are.  So simple, yet sometimes so hard to do.

(And for those that want to know.. after approximately year-long struggle in my battle to return to “normalcy” after a needed med change, my condition is mostly stable.  However, I still experience enough completely unexplained mood swings that it’s easy to write about this from a very personal perspective.)

Another bi-polar update..

So, once in a while I’ve been sharing a few thoughts regarding my bi-polar journey on Facebook.  If your interested in that or other random tidbits of a rather uneventful life you can follow me there.  But my good friend Janice suggested I should share the note on my blog here so that the one or two readers I possibly have left here might get a peak into something they probably don’t care about anyway.  But that’s what most of the internet is anyway, right?

Here’s the post from this morning:

Bi-polar update: I’ve shared my journey in this before, and at least a couple people let me know they appreciated it and so I thought I would provide an update. Hope its not tmi.

Almost exactly a year ago I started a med change because I needed to go off the meds I had been on for 10+ years for health reasons. It’s been a difficult process and we have tried a few different things. Made what I hope is a close to final adjustment last week. I think things are reasonably well, there is nothing like the up-down cycles that I had been experiencing. Yet the affects are still there, may be with me the rest of my life, no idea. Here is what “stability” looks like for me:

This morning, I have sent several messages/emails, talked to a few people, have a few more planned conversations for the day running around in my mind, and I’m not really focusing on the work I need to be doing. It’s not that the other stuff isn’t important (for example – my mom’s health, an incredibly inspiring conversation on faith this morning, thanks DavidCheryl Mishler). The issue is I am having a hard time focusing on the task I had scheduled for the day – getting ready for a tax meeting this week. I’m even writing this too long Facebook post.

I didn’t really notice it until I was talking a lot to Marci when I probably should have already left the house and got started on work. She asked why I was so quiet at breakfast yesterday morning… and I realized she was exactly right (hate it when that happens!). Yesterday was a good day, had kept some friends from Illinois overnight, had the first niece in Marci’s family get married, enjoyed the day very much. But from a brain chemistry standpoint it was just different, I was quieter, there was less going on in my head, in many ways it was much more peaceful. Today, my brain is working overtime.. and there really seems little I can do about it. If this is stability, I think I can probably live with it – as long as those around me can. But for anyone that thinks mental health is just “in your head”, I beg to differ!

Living with Bipolar

A couple months ago, I shared a couple times on Facebook some of the honest feelings and events that have happened while dealing with a bi-polar med change.  I was encouraged by someone who has been instrumental in helping guide my blog (although I will assume all pbipolar graphicersonal responsibility for it’s recent neglect…) to share my experience a bit more if I was ever inclined.  Well, today is that day.  (Oh, and thanks Janice!).

I am going to do this by simply sharing some observations/thoughts/questions/random perspectives I’ve had through my bi-polar experiences.  I am on the high side today, so my brain is operating a little too fast, these thoughts may seem scattered, my spelling/grammar will be poorer than it’s usual awful state (unless Janice has a chance to correct before you see this, which she has been known to do..) but tomorrow this post will probably be too hard to write, so we’ll give it a try.

1)  My experience will not match anyone else’s, bi-polar, no different than anything else is not a one-size fits all label.

As an example, one fairly unique thing about my bi-polar experience; it is rapid cycling and on a very set 48 hr pattern, when things are unstable I know that 24 hrs later I will feel completely different.  Longer ago I used to think if I just “tried harder” I could change that, but I’ve learned that the brain is no different than any other organ, it does not respond real well to just “trying harder”.  Imagine if you told someone with a broken wrist or high-blood pressure that if they just “tried harder” it would be better; that seems absurd, yet oftentimes that’s how we treat brain malfunctions.

2)  It’s doubtful your going to do or say the wrong thing

I hear this a lot.  I’ll share some info about being bi-polar with someone, and they want to know what/if they are doing wrong.  First, if I trust you enough to personally share details of my health with you, I probably consider you a friend.. on the other hand, if I just write about it on my blog, I’m probably just having a high day!  I often get asked:  What can I do to help?, does x/y that I do make this hard/worse?  I really, deeply appreciate the concern, but really, this truly is just my brain malfunctioning…  I may display more emotion than normal, ranging from appearing withdrawn to excess anger, but in the end.. if I’m upset at you, if I love you, if I distrust you, if I care about you deeply.. whatever my feelings toward you are, they really fundamentally aren’t going to change just because my brain happens to be wacko at the moment.  There really is nothing you can do… except…

3)  If your a friend or family member of someone struggling with this, remember you role, you ARE NOT the doctor, psychiatrist, or counselor.  

I know you desperately want to help, I know you care deeply and hate to see someone you love struggle so.  But if there’s one thing you take away from what I am writing today, take this:  Just be there, as a friend, as a mom/dad/sibling, whatever.  I know we want things fixed, I know we live in a very, very impatient world.. but this is hard and difficult stuff.  There are many, many experts out there that know far more about how to deal with this potentially deadly situation (yes, bi-polar has a very high rate of suicide, and it is not just confined to down days unfortunately)  TRUST THEM!  Your role is simply to be a friend, to be there..  If the one you love is down, silence is fine, it may feel awkward, but you don’t have to say anything, just being there is ok. on the other hand, they may want to be left alone, they may want no one around, that’s ok too, respect that.  When their high, they may want to talk way too much, to be agitated, easily upset, you may get tired of listening, of having them around… try to remember that will pass too.   Be there to support, to encourage, meds and counseling are good, they are not instant or guaranteed  fixes.  Respect the decisions the bi-polar person in your life is making, try to help, try to encourage, but realize you can’t do it for them.  By all means there are times where their own personal safety or others are at risk, and those can be tough decisions, but most of the time, a bi-polar person just needs a friend, that is all.

4)  Well..   I guess maybe three items is enough for today…

I was going to make this a long list, but I’m getting bored now.. and have other things on my mind, that’s typical of a high day.  So I’ll probably just leave it at this.  For those interested in a little of my specific experience:  In the spring of 2003, I began to experience fairly intense up/down days, not sure the cause, we were very busy on the farm, had taken on some new things, maybe just reached the point of over-stressed.  Because of the rapid-cycling nature, my local family doctor did not suspicion bi-polar and gave me standard anti-depressants, which made the problem worse.  At the worst, I would lay in bed practically all day, and the next day be literally bouncing off the walls.  I finally got on lithium, which controlled the symptoms very well for the last ten years or so, unfortunately a kidney number started to rise (known issue) and I needed to find new meds.  The last few months have been far better than when the original symptoms showed up, but yet difficult as we try to find the right combination of meds, deal with new side effects, possible personality changes of new meds, etc.

My goal in sharing is simply to help bring understanding to something that can be difficult to understand and oftentimes even more difficult to talk about.  Anyone that has any specific questions or would like to discuss any of this a bit more privately feel free to email me daringrimm at gmail dot com.

What does the Bible REALLY say about Sodom and Gomorrah?

Chances are you’ve heard of the controversy involving Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.  If you haven’t, in a nutshell, Phil apparently made some comments regarding homosexuallity that proved quite controversial.  This is a very divisive  topic in America today.  There will be people that read this that fundamentally believe “gay rights” are simply a continuation of a long battle for equality by those oppressed because they are different (women and African-Americans come quickly to mind).  There will be those that read this who believe the increasing acceptance of homosexuality in society will be our fundamental downfall.  So the diversity and strength of feeling is quite significant, and it is not my intention to comment on the issue itself.

What I do want to talk about here is the frequent reference I see by many Christians to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah whenever the topic of homosexuality comes up.  Usually this reference is somewhat along the lines of “look what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah, this is the exact path we are headed down by accepting gay marriage/homosexuality”.  I was recently involved in a Bible study where we spent an evening on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and i think the Biblical support for such a view is pretty lacking.  Let’s dig in:

First, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is pretty dramatic, in Genesis 18-19 we read that the city was evil, that God decided to destroy it entirely, and he sent angels to rescue one man and his family (Lot).   The biblical account that makes this story relevant to today’s controversy happens in Genesis 19:4-11.  Basically, the men of the city attempt to break down the door of Lot’s house so that they can gang rape the angel visitors.  They are so desperate that Lot offers his virgin daughters instead (which is a horrific concept itself that we seldom talk about), but this is not what the men want.  Finally the angel visitors smite the men with blindness and they apparently disperse..

Clearly, there were incredibly strong homosexual desires present.  Shortly thereafter, God smites the city with fire and brimstone and there is the link that many Christians find relevant today.

First, I want to establish that the Bible is very clear that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was quite great.  There are approximately thirty references to the cities throughout the Bible after they are destroyed, usually in reference to the great evil present there.  But what did God find so wrong?  What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah that so God so deeply abhorred that he utterly destroyed them?  Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about what specifically was wrong, simply referring often to their fundamental wickedness.

However, there is a single verse in Ezekiel (16:49) that says this:  “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”  (ESV)

Read that verse again (and again)..   Sometimes I have a sneaky suspicion that while we frequently use the Bible as a club to try to force those unlike us into submission (an unfortunately all too common historical Christian theme).  What it seems God is usually trying to do is plead with each of us to examine our lives and try to understand how we can personally serve Him better.

And it does seem based on Ezekiel 16:49 that America is unfortunately maybe way too much like Sodom, and it has nothing to do with homosexuality.

A new venture

Many of you that see this blog know of my extensive involvement in Ag social media.  I immensely enjoyed the opportunity to work with a number of talented people across the agriculture industry.  We launched the AgChat Foundation over four years ago.  This past August, after serving for two years as the president of the Foundation, it seemed a good time for new leadership.  (And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure I was ready to step down, but some honest, frank conversations with some gals I trust a lot helped me see that the passion and energy of my initial involvement was lacking.)  Since my role changed, I continue to serve as a board member and on the executive team, and am very comfortable that AgChat Foundation will continue to thrive under the leadership of new president, Jeff VanderWerff and executive director Emily Zweber, as well as the entire staff and board of directors.

I didn’t really have any plans, really did enjoy the non-profit work the last few years, but waaaay to soon an opportunity I couldn’t resist developed.  To make a long story short I am now a Channel Seedsman

Who is Channel?

channelChannel is a brand of Monsanto  (yea that evil, hated corporation).  Or seen another way, the clear leader in delivering innovative seed technology to the agriculture industry in the last 10-15 years.  Dekalb/Asgrow are the larger, more widely known Monsanto brands.  They are retail brands, available through many retail outlets around the country.  Channel is sold and serviced by independent dealers who are focused on the seed business and aim to provide exceptional levels of customer service.

Why did you do this?

I’m still asking myself that question!  But I see a tremendous opportunity. Long before I was involved in ag social media, I spent a lot of time in the precision ag field, collecting, evaluating, learning from data.  Channel’s vision is to deliver exceptional service.  For many, this means agronomic services and expertise.  I don’t stand in a corn field very often, but I have an intense interest and passion in what I refer to as data-driven agronomy.  Taking all available information, studying and learning from it to maximize the profit potential of every facet of the seeding operation.  While selling seed may be new for me, the passion for bettering production agriculture is not.

Are you crazy?

Possibly…   I fully understand seed sales is a highly competitive business and it’s no different in northeast Kansas, with many solid and well-run businesses offering seed and a variety of connected services to farmers.  Yet, I’m excited for the opportunity to combine the technology from the leader in this industry, with a brand that is focused on service, to work to deliver value to the local farming community.

Golden Rice – and a personal perspective

Golden Rice could be considered one of the significant advancements of the 21st century,  Through biotechnology, a strain of rice has been developed that has extra Vitamin A, a deficiency killing hundreds of thousands a year.

As expected, there is strong opposition to this new advancement in science.  The New York Times had a good piece on the topic, which I shared with my Facebook friends.

The topic of hunger and starvation in the third world is one that has interested me and I am firmly in the camp that Golden Rice would be of significant benefit to much of the world that does not know the luxury every one of you (and me) reading this blog post enjoys.

However, I will admit I have very little on-the-ground, real world experience on this topic.  I have heard the direct stories of a few farmers from around the globe, but other than that much of my knowledge comes from a media source of some type or another.

However, at this point I would like to introduce you to Ryan and Becky.  They are friends of Marci and I, just last winter we spent time with them at their Chicago home.  Since then, they and their children have moved to the Philippines for Ryan’s work.

It is Becky’s comment that I want to share with all of you from my FB post about the New York Times article:

 Darin Grimm – something like that could hugely benefit the people here in the Philippines who are not getting the proper nutrition they need from the rice that is all they are currently eating. I think it’s easy for those of us who have only known the US to judge what the rest of the world “needs” because we’re able to go out and buy anything we want food-wise, and at the very least what we need to survive. I just helped out in a free medical clinic in a remote flood-stricken area last week and it was SO hard to have to tell people that the best way to treat what was wrong with them was by eating foods high in fiber or in iron when all they have available to them is rice. They might be better off if they had rice that could provide them those much needed nutrients.

Now, this is super cool to me on two levels.. First, because it is real world experience that confirms what I have been told about needs and the situation in places like the Philippines .  Becky’s direct experience (she is a nurse, btw) shows the very specific problems that Golden Rice was designed to address.

Secondly, connections are amazing things.  We’ve known Ryan and Becky for a long time, and it fascinates me that friendships built years ago are utilized for something as seemingly random as Golden Rice, not something us as couples would probably ever have discussed when together.

To me, this represents a simple, small, example of the power of social media to enhance what we collectively know and understand.  To learn from the experience and insight of others.  It’s the kind of necessary plumbing that will be needed to help solve the difficult challenges of meeting the needs of an expanding, increasingly affluent global population, while not neglecting the very basic and often unmet needs of the millions of people still living in desperate poverty.

Fake Beef Anyone?

A couple weeks ago, a story broke on the ability to produce meat/beef in the lab. The article itself is fairly slanted, but it’s the concept of lab-based meat that I want to talk about.

First, I want to acknowledge that this whole story was probably more of a marketing win than any breakthrough in science. The ability to develop food products in the lab that taste like meat has been progressing for some time. Many years ago I remember hearing about a soybean-based product that with a little added chicken juice was supposed to replace genuine chicken. I suspect this current effort was at best a small step forward on the lab meat journey, backed up by a big win for a marketing department somewhere. (As you can see, time and experience has jaded me a bit on the idea of a “breakthrough”)

Secondly, it is quite apparent that the agriculture industry I am a part of was VERY unimpressed with this scientific advancement. That concerns me a bit, at a pure science level, it’s hard to argue against this kind of thing. If essential nutrients or other positive attributes can be provided in a new, potentially useful form, what is wrong with that? Isn’t that the premise the entire biotech industry is built around?

I understand that the potential success of a product like this would cause significant disruptions in the livestock industry for sure and spillover effects in the grains and all of agriculture. We feed cattle for a living, and would feel the personal affect very much. I would remind everyone that technology change always brings about massive upheaval and with it new opportunities. How do you suppose the very large and diverse horse industry felt as tractors started to take over farm operations? Or more recently, the makers of soybean chemical products like Blazer and Cobra when Roundup Ready soybeans so quickly dominated the soybean industry? (For those not in agriculture, apologies for some industry-specific product names there) It is easy to fear potential change without trying to be objective. So for the remainder of this post I am going to try to as objectively as possible consider lab-based meat, realizing it is near impossible to completely remove my personal opinion or bias.

Lab-based meat would certainly find a market as a speciality product for those that for either health or ethical reasons would not eat regular meat. There’s probably only a small portion of this already small market that would be interested in the product, so for practical purposes it would remain a niche-based and expensive option. In this scenario the effect on the agriculture industry would be minor, and lab meat would simply be added to the dizzying array of food choices already available.

I have very little information on the economics of producing lab meat. I have seen arguments that it will always be expensive, as well as arguments that it will fairly quickly be cheaper to produce than traditional meat. (Who ever knew that prime rib/pork chop would come to be known as traditional meat!!) As long as lab meat is an expensive option, I am pretty confident it will be a niche product.

The more interesting/unsettling scenario would be if lab-based meat could be produced and sold at a price point less than conventional beef. From a pure economics view, it should be able to gain significant market share and cause major disruptions to a large, existing industry. This all assumes the public is willing to accept lab-based meat — that is by no means a sure thing. The public has a massive distrust for science messing with their food, and I suspect lab meat would be no different. It is just very interesting for me to note that in this case, the general agriculture industry tends to side with the anti-science crowd and support the “back to nature” concept!

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