I spent much of my teens and 20s suffering from severe depression, anxiety, and OCD. During those years, I saw many therapists and tried many forms of treatment. Now I'm in my 30s and feel comfortable saying that for the last few years I've been stable. I know how to handle my lingering issues but pretty much have things under control. However, despite being "stable", most of the time I honestly feel kind of neutral and sort of empty. I often feel content enough, or just grateful to be alive and healthy, but it's been a long time since I've felt genuine joy, excitement, or a real spark in my life. After recovering from depression, is there any way to get past simply "functioning" and perhaps to "happy"?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
A little more info: I am female, and the conditions of my life are at this point pretty great - married to a wonderful man, working at a fulltime job that pays well, and most importantly, pretty much recovered from some pretty horrible depression and anxiety issues that plagued me for most of my young life. I've been off meds for several years, and I no longer feel the need to go to therapy - I maintain my sanity through a careful routine of yoga, exercise, eating well, writing morning pages, getting enough sleep, and practicing some of the tools I learned through years of therapy, namely CBT exercises to control negative/obsessive thoughts, taking things "one day at a time", and being mindful and grateful for the many things I do have. When I get lazy about the above things, I start to feel worse, so I'm pretty good/strict about keeping myself on track.
However, even though I am absolutely thrilled to be healthy and functioning again - something I definitely do not take for granted - it makes me a little sad that I seem to have lost my personality through all those years of struggle. A lot of the time, I just feel like a functioning yet sort of empty shell. I don't feel sad or depressed, but I just sort of feel... well, not much. I know "feeling nothing" can be a sign of depression, but having been through severe depression, this is different. I intellectually know to look at my life with "gratitude", and I can look at my life and how far I've come and feel genuinely grateful and contented by that, but at the end of the day, I see my husband, friends, and colleagues feeling passionate about things, and having hobbies/careers/projects they can lose themselves in, and I feel weird because I don't really have anything like that.
I'm good at my job, but I don't really care about it or the industry I'm in (which is the field I have my degree in). If I left tomorrow I geniunely wouldn't care. I've been casually job hunting for a couple years, but I'm not really sure what to look for - I don't know what different sort of job or field would make me happy, and none of the job listings I see make me think "a-ha! that's what I'd really love to do!" I also don't really have many close friends - I have friends and acquaintances that I like hanging out with in groups, and I'm not shy, but I do get awkward and a little stressed out when having one-on-one long conversations or outings. And when it comes to hobbies and interests, there's nothing I've found that *really* sparks my interest. I mean, I like writing, I like cooking, I like drawing/painting, and I'm trying to learn a new language. But if you told me hey, you need to give up those things tomorrow, I'd be like, eh, whatever, okay.
Maybe my baseline personality is just that I'm really boring. Or is this just what regular, non-tumultous, normal adult life is like? Is there still hope that I might find a calling of some sort, or even some sort of hobby that I get really excited about spending my free time on? It's frustrating because for years - from therapists, from yoga teachers, and from books, I've heard that the key to happiness is gratitude. But even though I do take the time, every day, to consider the good things in my life, and genuinely realize how much better I have it, I do not feel full. I feel empty. What can I do?
(and please don't tell me to go back to therapy. I have, and it hasn't really helped for this particular issue.)