How to deal with post-depression goal changes (or aimlessness)?
posted by StoneSpace to Human Relations (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
it may seem like a silly question, but it is one I have not found much discussed...what do you do when you crawl out of a depression?
This may be a long story...
As for myself, many factors led to my depression. Unsatisfaction with my PhD, conflicting goals (teaching? travel? and a sudden realization of the vastness of academic pursuits), existential angst, confusing breakup, being away from home, etc.
Using marijuana to self-medicate/feel better mostly led to manic-like episodes where I would be infatuated with philosophical ideas and run them into the ground realizing they were probably either silly and meaningless, or out of my reach. I would also be interested with topics related to my PhD (brainy things). In any case, I have been away from marijuana for almost two months and I feel much better.
During my depression I was convinced I was broken -- that I had Asperger's, or ADD, or OCD, or all of them at once. I eventually mustered the courage to see a doctor, who suspected depression (surprise!) and referred me to a psychiatrist who prescribed me citalopram (celexa). I am seeing a therapist/life coach who told me that I should not take the meds, so I followed her advice (she is of the "listen to and accept your feelings" type). Eventually I caved in and took the meds -- I can definitely see a change, at least in terms of crying spells (almost none now!) and suicidal thoughts (mostly gone).
Another detail to mention: when the depression took hold back in March, I basically stopped going to the office for three months. At first I was ashamed of my performance, then ashamed of my mental state, then afraid of what people would think, etc. I sent a long email to my supervisor explaining my angst and asking to meet him, which he never replied to. When I finally mustered up the courage to go see him (unannounced) after three months, he simply said he was sorry for not replying, and within the conversation (which was nonetheless amiable) he said "well, we all have problems, but we don't all talk about it". I think I need a supervisor who would be more supportive, but maybe I am asking too much -- who else can I talk to about academic career confusion? I didn't come back to the office again, as there were interesting classes, then I went back home, and then upon coming back felt even more confused (and that is when I finally started the meds). This is about a month ago.
I asked for academic leave back in March (I could see something was wrong) and that was deemed impossible. Seeing the clock tick made me even more anxious and depressed about my performance and I probably sunk even lower. Last week, I went to another city visiting my master's supervisor and other academics, with whom I am writing a paper on my old topic. I felt much more accepted and welcomed, much more at ease, and basically got offered a PhD position with my old supervisor (who said he wouldn't do this to anyone but for me, absolutely). It would sound great, except it would start in a year, giving me a year of I don't know what (during which my goal will most probably change again)
I also feel the shame of taking up this program's resources and not following through with the research I am here for. In any case, I am thoroughly confused and quitting seems like the only option. I went to see another therapist who told me that quitting now is "forbidden", as I may still be unstable and prone to brash decisions. The life coach previously mentioned has told me it is clear I should quit and travel or experience something else, and so has a school counselor.
I feel I am mostly new to this whole "this is my life and I can do what I want with it" idea. Thus I am still struggling with understanding what it is that I want, and a PhD in a foreign country puts too much pressure on me during this confusion. But, this may all be very normal and I am just making a big fuss for nothing.
I guess my main point is that I do not feel the depressive symptoms anymore, except for, well, lack of motivation, anhedonia, and general existential confusion. I also feel quite anxious -- I almost constantly feel my heartbeat, for instance. Maybe this is how we all live our lives -- or maybe I have still much more work to do. It just feels like I've crawled out of a bad dream which began when I decided to come here, which was itself a very brash decision taken under a depressive spell...
Well, anyway. Maybe this is chatfilter, but I need tricks to understand this new self which appears to have emerged. Maybe some book recommendations?