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Let's talk openly about depression (gustavoveloso.com)
135 points by gjmveloso on May 29, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

As someone who does the tech 9-5, I've found it difficult to make small talk/form deeper relationships with people outside of tech. Conversations often tend to die off after the initial "What do you do? Oh that's cool..." or "About that weather we've been having..." Any tips on expanding your network outside of tech?

As a somewhat socially awkward guy, there is a technique I've found really helpful. The key is to get someone talking about themselves so you can quickly discover topics of conversation you are both interested in and can skip over small talk. To do this, have a few questions you can ask people that don't come off as invasive but get them to tell a story or just talk about themselves but don't come off as invasive. I like to ask people what they would take a class on or where in the world they would live if they had all their expenses paid.

My wife actually organizes events to help people practice this. If you are in San Francisco there is one happening Tuesday at 7pm: https://speedfriendingsanfrancisco.eventbrite.com/

If you email me I can answer any questions.

I think what has happened is that people have become averse to and afraid of making set, hard plans to socializing. It's always "let's exchange numbers/Facebook and get a coffee sometime." Or I'll see you around.

We know how connected we are and how easy it is, so we don't set hard plans. Better to defer the potential rejection or obligation.

If it weren't so easy to connect there'd be more pressure to just set a hard time and calendar it right?

> "let's exchange numbers/Facebook and get a coffee sometime." Or I'll see you around.

That's what people say to those they don't want to be around. If they wanted you around they'd call you.

Not true at all, throwaway. I hate talking on the phone and chatting online is my preferred way to arrange things. It's easy to send addresses and times precisely without worrying about stuff getting misheard on the phone, you can add more people to the chat if you like, etc.

Take a genuine interest in what others find passion in, and you'll find making friends is easier than you think.

A good start would be replacing "What do you do?" with "What do you love to do?" or "What are you passionate about?" :) Good luck!

I find the idea that once can just consciously decide to "take a genuine interest in" something to be entirely alien. Is this something that most people are able to do? I can direct my attention toward something, but that doesn't make boring subjects interesting.

I've found that few things that people are passionate about are truly boring, especially to curious hacker types like myself.

The difficult part is to find that part of the subject, even if it's just a kernel, that triggers the interest you potentially have. This can take a while, sometimes. Perhaps reading up on how to interview people can help in this regard (it's helped me!).

In my case, but I suspect this is true for most humans, my 'genuine interest' activates once the 'human interest' angle, to put it vaguely, starts appearing. Probably because that's easier to relate to.

I hate talking about football, for example, but I've had wonderful conversations with football fans once they started sharing personal stories of things they experienced, adventures they had, or stories of how they used to go to games with their fathers, and how this was one of the few ways in which to connect with them, etc. In the process, I learned some interesting things about football too, but that wasn't really the point for me.

Over time some of these football fans became close friends of mine. We don't talk about football much nowadays, because it's clear that I find the topic mind-numbingly boring. But we do still talk about dads, and that's very valuable.

For me, the thing that made it work was when I noticed that I could apply the same impulse that led me to spend an hour wandering on wikipedia and tvtropes. I noticed that I tended to mostly read about history, so in conversations I started to ask people thinks that would get them to tell me the story of how they got interested in something or to tell some piece of the subject's history.

You are guessing that a line of conversation will stay boring, but you don't really know. Suspension of disbelief should be easy since you don't actually know what will happen. If you are interested in good things then you can be interested in seeing whether a conversation could turn out good.

This incidentally relates to one of OP's suggestions: don't assume that you'll keep feeling the way you feel forever.

This doesn't describe the experience I was getting at. I'm talking about actual conversations that I routinely have, not hypothetical ones I'm avoiding. It usually takes very little time to get to a point where the conversation just doesn't continue; I'm not trying to end it, it just sort of runs out of steam before it gets anywhere interesting. The disconnect might be that I don't seem to get any kind of mental/emotional jolt out of social interaction per se, which seems to be unusual.

Oh, you just have to bust through that. Say something else. Ask a question about a different part of their life.

I tend to look for things I can relate to in the how or why of the hobby. Sometimes I strike upon something totally oddball that makes me ask the person many questions. It might seem like a weird tangent to the person, but it does keep the conversation going for a while. At the end of that, you've at least had that long of a conversation.

you are guessing that a line of conversation will turn out to be boring, but you don't really know. Suspension of disbelief should be easy since you don't actually know what will happen.

This incidentally relates to one of OP's suggestions: don't assume that you'll keep feeling the way you feel forever.

"You must be genuine" is a double bind. Being genuine is something that cannot be forced by coercion

Maybe you would relate to other people better if you tried to find out _why_ they they find things interesting that you find boring.

You're assuming a lot. I do try, but I usually can't maintain enough interest/engagement to even get to the point of finding out the things people find interesting (apart from sports, but that's usually more about team rivalries and player/coach gossip).

Another good one, especially if you're talking to someone you've met before but can't remember what they do for a living: "So, what's on the cards for you this year?"

Gives them scope to talk about a new role you hadn't heard about, their regular job, a holiday they're going on, renovations at home, etc.

Go dance: salsa, tango, rock'n'roll, whatever you like. If you're young, salsa or street dance may be more interesting. Dancing is connecting to people without the need to talk much.

If you really don't like to dance, try theatersport or "impro". It will help free your mind.

Big bonus: you will meet many people that are not in tech. And afterwards you go have a drink in a local bar, great moments to talk to other people.

Find hobbies that aren't related. That's been my goal this year. Been interesting so far, and met a lot of awesome people.

This is a problem when people think "they are what they do". The truth is, first and foremost you are a human being, and as such life is pretty similar for all of us.

Ask someone what their current challenges in life are?

What are they passionate about?

What are they looking forward to?

The window dressing might be different but underneath we are very much alike.

Stop asking or even answering the whole "What do you do" thing then...

Try getting into something completely different than tech. Like aggressive athletic stuff (ie MMA / boxing... not cycling where you have lots of techies) or do some improv, which can drastically improve your bullshitting skills if you can stick with it.

>Any tips on expanding your network outside of tech?

Enjoy the other person, Like a TV show.

I've made a couple of friends from playing at local vball meetup.

Smile, nod, laugh

I'm also really into film and TV, so I can connect with people on that.

Also politics - public interest lawyers love me.

Checkout this site: http://devpressed.com/

And this excellent talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFIa-Mc2KSk

I got really excited by this devpressed site.

I have Asperger's. Plus PTSD from various stuff that happened as a result of that.

So the idea of a safe place to share my strengths (and weaknesses) and try to find a job that doesn't stress me out was really exciteding. So I fired up Tor[2] and tried to register.

Then the confirmation email never name. I tried resending. Set a timer. Wait 15 minutes. Try not to perseverate.

I only have two emails - my main, plus a very old hotmail account which has now been morphed into an Outlook addy. Outlook has a pretty rich feature set, including aliases[1]. So I thought I'd try that.

"There's a temporary problem with the service. Please try again. If you continue to get this message, try again later".

I go through the process again on Outlook. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Try not to perseverate.

I guess I could use my personal email (my first name at my last name dot com), but frankly part of why I was excited about registering.

Maybe the issue is I did the initial account registration over Tor. Or maybe I'm just particuarly unlucky today.

All I know is my rational brain quietly whisper "Oh, just go back later, it's probably some server side bug", and my emotional brain yells back... other things.

I guess I could sign in with my Twitter, but if you'd been through what I've been through, you'd have trouble trusting people too. That's how I got into privacy and security work... feeling like I had a secret, and I needed to protect it.

[1] http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/add-alias-account [2] Yeah, a VPN is probably sufficient but lately I'm interested in how much of the web is closed off to Tor users due to crazy captchas and other gotchas.

>> In the event of a critical issue or urgent matter affecting this site, please contact us at info@devpressed.com


Thanks for pointing this out! I sent an email.

I just tried to sign up with a standard email address without Tor and did not receive a confirmation email otherwise.

Best of luck to you.

The same thing happened to me with the confirmation e-mail. It seems they have a problem with the registration.

Yeah, 2 weeks and no response. Well, it was worth a shot :/

Once again I have checked devpressed: HTTP 502. First thought was "oh, HN effect". But... This was not a story on the front page, rather a comment (although was at the top for some time), yet we managed to DDoS them. This raises an eyebrow or two for me: maybe the percentage of people suffering from any degree of these disorders may be way higher than we thought?

Devpressed owner here. This is on me. While investigating the emails that weren't going through, realized that Discourse was in need of an upgrade. Managed to bork my Discourse + Docker + Digital Ocean setup in that process. Hope to get this fixed today (if you have devops chops and would like to assist, hit me up.)

That said, based on talking about this stuff over the last few years, the percentage of people suffering from any degree of these disorders is certainly way higher than I ever thought.

Well, also the hits you get from a comment link should not be as many as hits listed on the front page.

Thanks for these!

The 3 P's mentioned by the author are some of the most classic human pit falls into mental paralysis.

>1. Personalization – the believe that we are at fault. This is the lesson that not everything that happens to us happens because of us.

"Small-minded people blame others. Average people blame themselves. The wise see all blame as foolishness."


>2. Pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of your life

"Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream."

-Lao Tzu

>3. Permanence – the belief that the sorrow will last forever

"A student went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!”

“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.

A week later, the student came back to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just wonderful!”

“It will pass,” the teacher replied matter-of-factly."

-old Zen tale

If you have depression combined with ADD, OCD, Autism or ME/CFS, then you might want to look up "methylation" on the internet. Genetic testing can show if you have a defect in your methylation pathways, which can lead to these disorders, and to depression.

Good starting point: http://geneticgenie.org/

They even have an implementation of methylation analysis on this website.

Do you have a reliable cite for this please?

Genetic Genie is setting off a lot of bogosity warning bells in my head.

Yes, epigenetic methylation is associated with increased risk for all sorts of chronic illnesses. And, yes, oxidative stress influences heritable methylation. At the same time, the site appears to be peddling its own brand of alternative medicine woo and affiliate links.

Yes, and? The entire website stinks of snake oil.

The AJHG paper they cite to is talking about folate and methylation in the context of fetal abnormalities. This is a whole different beast from feeding adults B12 vitamins and hoping for the best.

> and hoping for the best

Well you are supposed to do a blood test for the metabolites that occur in the methylation pathway, to see if the cycle is running correctly. Not sure if that is mentioned on this particular site, but this is what people are doing for example on this ME/CFS forum [1]

> The entire website stinks of snake oil

You could still be right about this (or not), of course. I'd also like to see some clinical trials of this approach.

[1] http://forums.phoenixrising.me/index.php?threads/methylation...

Living for your dream isn't a walk in the park, so it's important to build up a network of people you trust and can talk to. Anyone that wants to talk about entrepreneurship, building, whatever and depression just hit me up online or available for coffee whenever in SF. Contact info in my profile. Reach out. :)

I'd extend the same to anyone in the, uh, NL area. Perhaps we should set up an IRC channel specifically for this? Or does one already exist?

> it's important to build up a network of people you trust and can talk to.

From my experience with a lot of family, friends, classmates, coworkers, I agree that this can really help out someone who's depressed (PTSD too).

Texts or email sent back and forth, meeting up for dinner, coffee, or a beer have all seemed to help. Getting them a light box has helped, if they use it..

"a network of people you trust and can talk to" Or at least ONE person... (I'm in this scenario)! EDIT: at least ONE person and a cat :)

Would love to chat! :)

Thanks :) I'm in Italy... when I'm depressed I read some pages from this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hacker_Ethic_and_the_Spiri...

Any advice to building a network when at small startups with most people older than you?

Don't assume too much about people. Someone twice your age might have twice as much experience with the problem you're facing. Anyone can be a useful part of your network.

Does private messaging on HN require some amount of karma or is it simply not supported?

Not supported. I have DMs on Twitter, Facebook, Baqqer, and SMS though!

If you go to https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=projektir, you can edit your profile and add contact information so people can email you.

The only option is whatever contact method listed on the profile page of the person you want to contact, if any.

It is quite a coincidence that this topic popped up on HN. On my way into work this morning, I was listening to This American Life, in particular act 2 of this episode [0]. It basically follows the awkwardness of two dads trying to form a friendship in Austin.

I was thinking why is it so hard for one man to form a friendship with another. Personally, I have found it difficult to form a friendship with other men outside of work or of school. Now that I am about to turn 46yrs old, I can count on one hand the number of guys I can consider a good friend. The rest are either workmates or schoolmates.

Social contact is not the silver bullet to depression, but I believe that it helps a lot.

[0] - http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/587/t...

Three P’s for me: Pasolini, Pertini, Pippo. EDIT: if you are not italian: knowledge, coherence and craziness.

>Personalization – the believe that we are at fault

Yes, guilt is the means by which so much bad stuff gets installed in our minds. Ideas that get passed easily from mind to mind regardless of truth content are called memes. I propose the term remes for ideas that get recalled easily in an individual's mind. These get rehearsed more frequently than other ideas regardless of their truth content and so they persist; they achieve this by generating guilt.

I agree with the sentiment, but this whole Change Through Piecemeal concept for these sorts of things cab be discussed so much more breadth. Let's talk about mental health with a focus on distancing the concept of 'othering' from our heuristics instead, please.

Be Chinese.

Thoughts can be your own worst enemy if left uncontrolled. I have heard psychiatrists agree when a patient states that they cannot control them. Totally false. The thing about depression is simply that feelings are the hardest thing anyone will ever try to control in their own lives. Modern psychiatry is stupid if it thinks anything is solved with medication. Then you have bad memories. Those can be replaced if you learn to not only control your thoughts, but also stop using the word victim in it's entirety.

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