- Freshman Year of College: Danger Zone for Mental Health
- Is "Next to Normal" Normal?
- Top Ten for College Freshman, ND talk scheduled on Sept 30th
- Struck by Living Top Ten for Mental Health
- Can an Obstacle Prevent Suicide?
- Convincing the Stubborn to Accept Mental Health Care
- Dr. Oz Ventures Bravely into ECT
- Mental Hygiene: Preventative Care for Mental Health
- Why does the Stigma of Mental Illness Persist
- Don't Omit from the Obit
- Struck By Living Top Six
- Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs: Truth from the Inside Out
- Purpose and Perspective: Critical Ingredients for Mental Health
- Innovation: An Antidote for Depression
- Brice Beaird's Song "Hold on to Me"
- Interview with American School of London Graduate Charlie Marsh
- Why? The Enigma for Those Left Behind from Suicide
- Blogs on Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
- Bir Sur 21 Miler
- Walk for Hope Talk in Harrisonburg, VA/Trip To the University of Notre Dame
- Inspiration from the Pecos Wilderness
- Dump the Shame, not the Pills
- Introspection: A Key Ingredient for Mental Health
- The Necessary Glue for Wellness
- Becoming an Orphan
- A Positive Change with Nature's Help
- Why is the Teen/Young Adult Suicide Rate Increasing?
- Memory and ECT
- Dancing with Words in Decatur
- Flourishing with Help from Marty
- Don't let the Dragon Steal Christmas
- You're Just LIke Me
- The Prison of Independence
- Catch up on Events
- Spalding Gray: The Power of a Dandelion
- Book review done by GInny Sparrow
- Impressions of the American Association of Suicidology
- Headed to San Marcos to hear Thomas Joiner
- Next to Normal Take II
- Texas Suicide Prevention Conference in San Marcos
- Watching Out for the Gorilla
- Link to June Talk in 2010 at the Darien Public Library
- Two excellent articles recently in the NY Times
- Linehan Leads the Way for Honesty in Clinical Practice
- High Suicide Rates in Korea
- Beyond Winning
- Music as a Healing Instrument and Barometer
- Lawyers with Depression
- My Trip to Dr. Oz
- Know Yourself: A Message from Hildegard Von Bingen
- Hildegard: The First Encounter
- Think Pink: University of Notre Dame/NAMI Project Hope Walk
- TWU Inspires a Fresh Look at the Struck by Living Top Ten
- American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, Out of Darkness Walk, Dallas 11-10-12
- Remembering Mom During the Holidays
- Blogs Regarding Gun Violence
- Aches and Gains Radio Show to feature me (Julie Hersh) this Saturday
- College Top Ten Revised
- Article Published in the Dallas Morning News
- Finding My Pace at Big Sur
- Phoenix House and CA Maternal Mental Health conference
Blog » Beyond Winning
Last spring, I shared my struggle with clinical depression to a group of Stanford graduate engineering students. I doubted that they’d relate to my story. After all, they’d made it. Stanford engineering, tops in the world, planted in Silicon Valley; how much more potential could a future hold?
I was wrong. Inherent in potential is the steep cliff of failure. These students had made it to the top so far, but still hadn’t secured jobs. Coming out of Stanford, a standard job wouldn’t do. They felt the pressure to go from one of the best schools in the world to one of the best jobs in the world. Anything less, would seem a failure. Like the crew of Apollo 13 (even though these kids only saw the movie), they knew. Failure is not an option.
One woman from Nigeria told me about a suicide that had occurred over the last few years within the graduate engineering program. This death came and went silently, without explanation. “In my country,” she said, “When people ask ‘how are you’ they wait for an answer.” She described how Nigerians stop in their daily tasks to listen to each other. She admitted that not a lot gets done, but people seem happier. In contrast, she described the engineering students, so deep into their work that they rarely make eye contact. The other students nodded.
The problem identified, one asked me the solution. The answer popped off my tongue. “Get some friends outside of engineering.” They all laughed. I backpedalled for a more tactful response, but I’ve seen this problem more than once. Similar people congregate, often skewing the importance of an issue for that group. Business people, doctors, soccer moms or lawyers in a cluster often build brittle, lopsided solutions. Small items become life or death. A homecoming mum becomes critical for social existence. Being named a Partner becomes synonymous with life success. Being right outstrips the best outcome.
Over time, the hysteria of group myopia chips away at one’s psyche. For people like me, those thousand cuts lead to a mass hemorrhage of depression. My tourniquet for wellness requires me to step outside my social comfort zone. I purposely seek out people who think differently than me. Their different perspective allows me to gain clarity on my own life.
When I give audiences my top means for keeping my depression at bay (http://www.youtube.com/struckbyliving#p/a/u/1/5Qay6Skv7G), my sixth and perhaps most important tactic is to have friends who are fun and who have a sense of perspective. I mingle with people who are older, younger, of different faiths, gender or interests. With variety, myopia becomes difficult to sustain. I learn that there is often more than one answer to the same question. I learn to laugh at my own stubbornness.
What the Stanford students have yet to realize is that although it’s wonderful to work hard toward a goal, the weight of looming potential will not lift with that first job. With one goal met, the next sprouts legs and sprints ahead. As my husband says, “There is no there, there.” For me, the best balance lies in enjoying the race at a pace that’s mine. Sometimes fast, other times not, I’ve learned (and continue to relearn) to listen to others, but also hear myself.