Dealing with depression and burnout

I cannot remember the date of my last post. Neither have I bothered to look at the last post to verify the date. All I know is that the last post made it aptly evident to me that I was suffering from depression, and that I had to find a way out.

Depression has taken root in me for various reasons. I think it is a pointless exercise to list every reason here because reasons can sometimes be rationalised, and rationalisations can be convenient lies. In the last few days however, when I came across Aaron Swartz’s post on depression, I was reminded once again that I needed to set myself a goal. Working towards the goal may motivate me and help me get out of the situation I am in. After writing my last blog post too, I realised the importance of setting myself a goal in the running programme if I were to stick to it. For the next few days, I decided that the goal will be to complete the 10k run at the Auroville race. However, I soon fell out of the rhythm with the running programme because of my inability to motivate myself to wake up early in the mornings and mile the runs.

In December, I felt that by trying to revive my academic career and moving towards writing, researching, lecturing, etc, I may come out of my depressed state. However, I soon realized that trying to run HasGeek and build my career at the same time could be fatal for my mental and physical health. I was also facing a burnout at that time because of the stress at work, and no rest despite a break from organizing conferences. The visit to Bombay in that period only depressed me further because of the pain I felt at being removed from fieldwork and ethnographic writing.

One of the best decisions I made in that period was to somehow reduce the pressure I was putting on myself about reviving my academic career.  I decided to go on the cycling trip which was postponed from the first week of Dec to the last week. The dates clashed with a panel discussion in Mumbai. I decided to drop the panel discussion invitation, thereby relieving myself from the pressure of building a career. Instinctively, I knew that the cycle ride would be good for my emotional health. And boy, two days of riding 100 kms did make a difference the next day! Having finished the ride, I felt accomplished. The workout also made me feel better about myself for couple of days until work stress got to me once more!

I have now been doing a cycle ride at least once a week. We did an adventurous 110 km ride the following Sunday followed by a shorter 50 km ride last Sunday. I also decided to do pushups regularly since I wanted to build on my core fitness and arm strength. Kiran helped me find an Android app which has a daily training schedule for pushups. I followed it as diligently as I could. I have now started doing squats as well. I keep hoping that I will motivate myself enough to get back to running. But this hasn’t happened yet.

I also started reading more voraciously since mid-Dec. I have completed reading three books in all – one about a mobile platform in South Africa, Catch-22 and Life of Pi. I am now reading an interesting history about the evolution of the modern computer with graphical user interface. I also read a lot of articles posted on my twitter timeline, thanks to the Pocket app and my new Android phone.

I have also taken to cooking. I have been thinking of getting more scientific with proportions and flavours, and getting back to baking. I decided to fix my food habits, in the hope that by eating healthier, I might get better with waking up early in the mornings to go for a run. I now eat breakfasts at home and also try and get home-cooked food for lunch. We have asked the office help to double up as a cook and make dinner at office. I have reduced my in-take of coffee, especially from Coffee Day and Costa joints. I have switched to drinking green tea in the mornings, and now prefer to drink lighter tea. It makes my body feel better. Also, reducing the intake of fried foods, especially chips, has made a world of difference for me. I don’t feel so sluggish anymore as a result of these changes.

I still feel goal-less though, and I have been wondering what kind of goal to set for myself.  Any goal that has to do with research and writing is demotivating, still. I find instead that setting a goal about improving my speed and times with cycling makes me feel more motivated. However, this does not seem like a tangible goal. What this makes me realize that I am still keeping up the pressure on myself to “do” something “substantial”. Unless I let go of this pressure and the mental talk that I feed myself, I will not be able to lose the handles that I have set out to lose in 2013, and understand the world afresh, anew.

Dedicated to Hobbeś the John.


About writerruns

I am lost in life. I now run to lose myself and to lose the handles I have been holding on to.
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