Depression and Such

Continued from

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to reboot this thread but it’s become necessary. I tried to go to community college and had a nervous breakdown before I could even get into the classroom. That night I was emailed the syllabus for one of my classes and I panicked just reading it, unable to finish it without crying.

It had taken me a lot just to accept that going back to school was the right thing to do and now I can’t even do it. I don’t know how to face this. There’s no work in history without a degree, but high school created this PTSD-esque dynamic between me and education where it just scares the shit out of me. How do I disassociate classrooms from those experiences?


I don’t have any useful advice for you, other than the one everyone should give which is seek professional help. Being able to work where you feel passion is something very valuable and if your past experiences are preventing you from doing that you should be treated for those issues.

If I can help in any way, I will.

I think you’d make an excellent academic in the field of history. The amount of primary material you seem to enjoy reading leaves me feeling nothing but admiration.


How much sleep are you getting, on average? Have there been any significant changes in your sleep patterns?

I pretty reliably get at least five hours sleep, usually seven or eight. That’s been the case since I got out of high school. Back then I would get 8-10 hours sleep but suffered from magnitudes more anxiety.

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Nth the professional help bit.

When I had panic attacks I remember several things really helping me: working on recognizing triggers and the preamble to the panic, finding a safety place/object that was accessible (somewhere with privacy, usually all-gender/handicapped bathroom, for me), having someone read to me (over phone/audiobook if needed, distracting and keeps me from feeling alone). When I felt it coming, I’d go through these like a checklist.

Hopefully you have access to a place that understands mental health, and you can register it as a learning disability, so that when you sit near the door and vanish on occasion, the teacher won’t give you grief. Other thing is to take it easy and be forgiving/patient with yourself, and be マイペース (my pace, take your time, follow your own drum). Anxiety makes us into seedlings that need nuture, protection, & time before we can become what we are meant to become.


I grew up in Miami, news of irma is making me want to drink out of anxiety. Staying away from a bottle is only furthering my stress.

I feel like a panic attack is incoming and I have no one around to help.

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Your sleep patterns are pretty normal; that’s a good sign. Along with Naoza, and no_fun_girl, I third the recommendation for professional help.

I would make the same recommendation to you as well.

If you find yourselves worried about vague notions like “professional help”, have a look at this first:

It should help to disambiguate the different kinds of professional help you can get. I’m not quite sure how this works in the U.S. though; maybe there’s slightly different categorizations over there.

What you probably want is a counsellor or a psychotherapist; someone who is professionally trained and will take the time to just talk to you about the problems you are facing. If you find yourself afraid to seek that kind of help, try envisaging what would actually happen in a therapy session, and think about how realistic your concerns really are.

If either of you just want someone to talk to, I have plenty of free time at the moment, so I’d be willing to do it. Of course, I’m not any kind of professional, but I’d be willing to do it nonetheless.

I know I sometimes seem like a very antagonistic person on the forum, but the truth is that’s because of some of my own issues; I have a somewhat pathological issue with perfectionism (c.f. self-doubt). This tends to lead me to focus way too much on getting the facts right and being correct, and often just wanting to win arguments. I find it extremely difficult to share much about myself due to the fear that people won’t like me; or worse, that they’ll just be completely indifferent.


I hate the therapist search, let’s be honest, but asking local friends I trust whether they have any recommendations has worked out well.


I’m receiving a shit ton of professional help, but, due to logistics, I can’t get to my professionals before my next class.

OK, if you’d like to, we can schedule a time for a chat; text, voice, or video (video is probably best, assuming we don’t get connection issues due to my being in Australia). I’ve recently made some huge breakthroughs on some of my own issues w.r.t. depression and anxiety, so I think I might be able to help.

Incidentally, our exchange from back in 2014 might be a pretty useful indicator:

Some musings of my own follow, mostly about my own insecurities. Don’t assume that they are meant to apply to any particular person on this forum (no, not you either, person reading this right now).

Mental illness comes in many different forms and they are all too often conflated, because none of the words we use to talk about mental illness have any kind of clear meaning.

There are different kinds of depression. Some are simply caused by environmental problems, such as nutrition, or chemical issues in the brain. But not all of them.

The one that I, personally, have experienced (probably for around 5 years now) can be described thus:
It is the conflict, deep and painful, that you feel when attempting to convince yourself of something that, on some level, you don’t really believe.

It’s a closely related concept to akrasia, as well as to procrastination, but depression is different. Depression comes with a degree of suffering that does not come with those other things.

Willpower is the ability to actually convince yourself of something, so that you really do believe it. Or at least to force yourself to do it even though you don’t.

Willpower, however, is overrated. The problem with willpower is that if you’re not careful you’re just as vulnerable to convincing yourself of something that is false or dangerous as something that is true and good. Willpower can lead you to achieve great things, but it can also lead you to being a Nazi.

Having a “lack of willpower” is what society accuses you of when you refuse to conform to society’s expectations of you. Quite a lot of the time—most of the time, even—society is correct. But sometimes society is deeply wrong, and in those instances that so-called “lack of willpower” is not a negative trait, but a uniquely positive one.

For those instances, the key skill you need is rationality—the ability to actually figure out whether the things you want to convince yourself of are really, genuinely true.

Also, another thing to note (again mostly about my own insecurities): FUCK the concept of “lost time”. As a concept it’s rather unproductive, and in some cases it’s actually just wrong.

When I look back over my years of so-called “lost time” I realize that many of the things I was doing, things that I kept telling myself were a waste of time at the time, were actually things that mattered, and they mattered despite what everyone else around me thought.

If you feel guilty about being unemployed, fuck that noise. The social stigma around unemployment is toxic.

If you feel guilty about spending time on the Internet, fuck that noise. What society more broadly doesn’t understand is that the power of the Internet (just like cities vs rural areas) is that it can support larger and more diverse social groups. As long as you are an active participant on the Internet rather than a passive one, the Internet is actually more social than standard interpersonal interactions in meatspace.

Yes, there is something deeply valuable in the power of facial expressions, and of eye contact, and of hand gestures. But all of these things are just information channels, albeit relatively high-bandwidth ones.

I feel less alone in the physical presence of someone. It makes me feel more important because the person took the effort to be near me. It gives me auditory input which I value much more than visual. It means they can pat me on the shoulder if I say something sad and vice versa. I really wish I had spent more time developing in person social skills than online social skills.

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  1. You probably have better social skills than you think you do. People who really, truly have terrible social skills usually don’t even realize their own lack of social skills.

  2. It isn’t too late to develop better social skills. Neuroplasticity is legit; humans can develop new skills even into old age. AFAIK you’re pretty young so you don’t have much to worry about.

  3. Keep in mind the similarity between people taking the time to be near you and people taking the time to talk to you on the forum. The two things are similar, and they come from the same source.

  4. People probably appreciate your input on this forum more than you think they do. I, for one, find your posts on history deeply useful, although I don’t always read them.

  5. In particular, it’s very rare for people to give direct acknowledgement of the value of a forum post. When a person actually changes their mind as a result of something that was said to them, even if it was only very slightly, it’s extremely difficult for them to admit it. Often when you change someone’s mind they will act as though they believed their new position all along.

  6. For example, I wrote some of my earlier posts in the “punch Nazis” thread not really, seriously considering the threat of the rise of fascism. More so than anyone else, it was your post (yours, Greg) about U.S. history that convinced me that it was a genuinely serious threat.

  7. If there are ways for you to get in-person contact with the people you really feel are your people, e.g. people of the FRCF, you should take all of those opportunities. Conventions like PAX are an obvious example.

  8. Try going out for a walk. Sometimes it really helps.

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@lackofcheese you’re addressing insecurities I don’t have. I don’t shame myself for lack of meatspace social interaction, but I’ve noticed that I prefer it and I wish I could do it more effectively and often.

Anyway I tried to go to class again today and had THE worst anxiety. I got to campus and then took the bus back home cause I was pushing my own safety. I’m emailing my professors to see if I can audit the classes instead of taking them graded. That way I can teach myself that classes aren’t that bad without worrying about long term effects of my failure.


Please think of me more like a search algorithm; I’m trying hard to figure out where your pain is coming from, but I don’t have enough information about you and/or I’m not smart enough to fully pin down why. The points I listed above were following more of a throw-things-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach; they are more general advice, and I should not have assigned any particularly high probability to any particular one of those points being helpful to you.

I think you’re right, though; I probably went in the direction of making too many assumptions about you, and believing too strongly in an inaccurate model. I am deeply sorry for doing so; I know it hurts, because I’ve had people make various assumptions about me and, as well-meaning as they usually are, I still found it painful when they were wrong.

Also, I am openly willing to admit that many (perhaps all) of my posts in this thread have been about my own insecurities rather than being about yours. Part of the issue is that the main source of my own internal model is my own experience, so it’s extremely likely to be skewed in that direction. But I am not posting here solely for my own benefit, either; I feel your pain and I want to help.

Maybe you could try making a list of people you want to interact with, and the ways you might be able to interact with them more. Or try thinking about the kinds of conversations you might want to have with people, and look for people you could have those kinds of conversations with.

That’s a great idea.

As for dealing with the classroom-related trauma, I’ll list some possible suggestions. I’m not entirely sure where your problem comes from since all I have to go on is that it’s PTSD from high school and that you’re concerned about the long-term effects of your failure, so I might still end up going along the wrong lines, but I’ll see what I can come up with.

Again, I don’t know how useful my suggestions will be to you; maybe you’re already doing some of these things, or maybe there’s some other, better things you are doing due to the professional help you’re getting. But I think you’re intelligent enough to go through suggestions like these and figure out how useful they may or may not be for you.

  • Maybe spend more time thinking about the positive experiences you might have in classrooms.
  • If classrooms are too traumatic to think about, maybe try thinking about other places at college where you might have positive experiences. e.g. you could think about spending time in a library or any other kinds of places you might spend time in at your college.
  • The chances of failure, and the long-term effects of that failure, are probably not as bad as you think they are. If you try assessing those factors more rationally, you might find it easier to deal with.

I actually did this at one point for people at concerts. It didn’t work per se but I was definitely onto something. Then I stopped going to shows when unrelated anxieties started piling up. One thing about me is that I’m never worried about one thing at a time. All my worries are concurrent and stand on each other’s shoulders. Since I left my job two months ago I haven’t been able to get back on my feet with meeting new people, but it’s not because I don’t know why or how, I just haven’t had the emotional energy.

To clarify, I’m enrolled at a commuter school. I can get onto campus and walk around with only moderate anxiety. When I needed to take my placement test and then when I needed to see an adviser, I had no significant trouble. Wednesday I got right up to the door of my class before I turned around. If I’d had somewhere I could’ve cried in peace then I might’ve been able to regroup and head in, but no such place exists, according to former students I know and disability center staff.

Cognitive exercises don’t help me deal with panic. My cognition has very little influence on my physical response and my physical response has more control over my emotions than my cognition does. Nothing helps me with in-the-moment panic. I have to take preventative actions to stop the panic from happening in the first place, not retract it once it is present.

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Some ideas you might want to consider:

  • Try walking into empty classrooms, when no one is inside.
  • Try walking into classrooms for classes you aren’t even taking. That would take a lot of the pressure off you, and allow you to experience the classroom experience as a passive observer rather than an active participant.

The second one of those two is a lot like your own idea about auditing the classes instead of having them graded, but it might be even easier to handle if the class isn’t your class.

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If you’re finding it difficult to meet new people, you might want to at least fall back on spending as much time as possible with people you already know.

The FRCF is a good example; we’re not total strangers and you already know many forumites, and you’ve met some forumites at conventions.

In particular, going to conventions with people you already know is a really good thing. I know you’re already doing this, but maybe you should take even more opportunities to attend conventions than you already are.

If money is a significant part of the problem, then you might want to take a bit more time to think about what you really, actually want to spend money on.

Personally, I’ve found that society’s model of What You’re Supposed To Do With Money is often broken in all sorts of little ways that can sometimes lead to pathological outcomes.