I'm happy 3/4 of the time, and funky the rest!
September 1, 2009 8:49 PM   Subscribe

So, I don't get it. Nothing is outwardly "wrong", but for whatever reason nothing feels right. I go through this every few months it seems, on average 3 times a year. It usually lasts for a few weeks, but sometimes it's less and sometimes it's more.

I know it's probably nothing, especially since I always come out of it fine, but why is this happening so frequently? I know also that environmental factors (such as stressful school, family relations, work and etc) are often present, but could this be hormonal as well? It seems like it's getting less frequent over the years (and yes, I know YANAD, YANMD) but it's getting really irritating that I keep finding myself in these seemingly inexplicable (aside from the aforementioned external causes, stresses which are consistently present in my life and I generally handle with no problems) and completely tiresome funks. So I guess I'm wondering, could it be hormones? Is this normal?
posted by wild like kudzu to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
It's normal. (I wouldn't call 3 times a year "frequently," but that's obviously up for debate.)

I would call it not hormonal, but actually being alive.
posted by trotter at 8:59 PM on September 1, 2009

Mmmm. Obvs that IANYT, but this sounds a bit to me (and I don't want to be prescribing anything here) like anhedonia and/or seasonal affected disorder. Anhedonia is the inability to experience pleasure from normally pleasurable things. It sort of seems like the 'numbness' (would that be a good adjective?) you feel might be something akin to this. I have suffered from this in some capacity for many years. It sucks. It being cyclical is nothing unusual.

I mean, depression and anhedonia have many factors...hormones, external environmental factors, heredity, et al. There are naturopathic avenues you can pursue, but if it's serious - and not to be the broken askmefi record here - but see a therapist. They'll be able to tell you if you simply need a little exercise and St. John's Wart and Vitamin D, or something pharma, or just some counseling.

In any case, it's nothing to take lightly. See a therapist. Seriously.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:05 PM on September 1, 2009

I would call it not hormonal, but actually being alive.

That to. Melancholy is a tenant of life.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:06 PM on September 1, 2009

Does it always come at the same times of year? It could just be some mild allergy or the like. Knowing people who have serious allergies to pollen, I'm not going to call myself allergic - but there tends to be a week or so there when my eyes are a little more scratchy than normal and I feel like I'm under water. Takes the edge off your game to say the least.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:09 PM on September 1, 2009

I don't think it's allergies, and I don't really think it's SAD or anything like that, and I wouldn't describe it as particularly numb... it's more a general feeling of life beating me up, if that makes any sense. The whole living life concept is an interesting one, and the melancholy that is actual human existence... maybe that's all that it is, I suppose I have been operating under the assumption that the average person doesn't experience these bouts of feeling... unexcited and moody for periods of time throughout the year. They don't occur at any specific shift of seasons or anything-- if they did I'd be the first to assume it was seasonal-- but seem to pop up out of nowhere and with no direct cause. A few years ago I saw a therapist once a week for a year. At the end of that year I felt I had addressed most of the issues I was experiencing and since then have felt no major depression, just these mini-funks. As I said, it's probably nothing and I know that, but I just wanted to know if this was common.

I don't feel I'm at a point wherein therapy is warranted or even desirable, it just seems as if from time to time I find myself under the thumb of the world. I know I'm being catastrophic and I don't really mean it that way, it's just a vague, general feeling. It may help to know that I am 22 and female, and my menstrual cycles have been going a bit haywire recently (if that's TMI I apologize.)
posted by wild like kudzu at 9:17 PM on September 1, 2009

Melancholy is a tenant of life.

I'm not trying to make fun, but I have no idea what that means. None.

Here's why I finally decided to go to therapy:

I felt like shit a lot of the time. Because I was depressed. And it sucked. I guess you could say it wasn't anything "serious" - I was always able to get up and go to work, I didn't want to hurt myself, etc. etc.

But- it really sucked. And I just decided I didn't want my life to be like that anymore. You don't have to feel shitty when there are people who can help you. That's not a "tenant" of anything. It can't hurt to talk to a therapist once- and as documented extensively here, there are plenty who charge on sliding scales if money is an issue.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:29 PM on September 1, 2009

Huh, maybe there is something going on in your reproductive organs, or something systematic with your thyroid or some other gland. The thyroid can be variable. Of course I don't know what I'm talking about, really, so maybe you should talk to a doctor.
posted by kathrineg at 9:31 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

A few years ago I saw a therapist once a week for a year

Sorry, I missed that part. I still think it can't hurt to go back, though. One of the things I had to get over was that feeling of, "it's no big deal, so I shouldn't complain." I know it's tempting to minimize your own suffering, but don't. Feeling bad much of the time is definitely a big deal and you deserve to feel better.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:32 PM on September 1, 2009

How is your diet? Your B12 levels in particular? If you can, ask your GP to test your B levels (all of them) via a blood test. Or you could just purchase a bottle of B12 supplements (but not the megadoses without knowing your current B12 levels) and try them for 3 - 6 months to see if your funks are reduced. I also recommend omega 3 from fish oil. Both work very well for alleviating low level depression.
posted by Kerasia at 9:49 PM on September 1, 2009

Melancholy is a tenant of life.

I'm not trying to make fun, but I have no idea what that means. None.

I just mean that in our current culture there is this pressure, this expectation that humans should be happy all the time. But sadness is an important emotion, one that should be recognized as a healthy emotion - and the occasional 'funk,' for some, might simply be the normal cycle of human emotions.

Jimmy - I'm in your boat. Normal, appropriate feelings of melancholy is not what I deal with either, and I've had to seek serious help. But it's not for everyone. Melancholy can be a part of the 'normal' (whatever the fuck that means) spectrum of human emotions for some, and an infinite regress of hell for others.

But OP - it sounds like for you the mini funks are probably normal. That's just your brain trying to keep you in check. It seems that you know it's no major depression - and if you think it's not, then it probably isn't. You'll know when it gets unbearable. There's a whole section in the Mefi wiki devoted to askme threads about depression. I encourage you to check it out.

The other thing I'd like to say (sorry this is hedging on tl; dr) but you're 22. Early 20's - I've found (I am one btw, and older people I've talked to have said the same thing) really suck. I don't know much about you, but generally one's early 20's are a terrifying crossroads. I'm still in it. If you're making it out with occasional, mild funks - I'd say you're doing great.

As far as your menstrual cycle - go see a doctor about that. Soon. No one on here will be able to give you sound advice about that - and it could range from nothing to serious.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:55 PM on September 1, 2009

Your B12 levels in particular?

Sorry for responding so much. This is really good advice. I don't eat meat, and I was a cranky fucker until I started taking B12 everyday.

Also, check you're iron. Lack of iron can make you feel cranky, and women lose a lot of iron during their period, so depending on your situation, you could be lacking. That's an easy fix!
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:57 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by Lutoslawski at 9:58 PM on September 1, 2009

Melancholy is a tenant of life.

I think you're looking for the word tenet. Though even there I'm not sure it's the correct word to use.
posted by dfriedman at 10:04 PM on September 1, 2009

I think you're looking for the word tenet. Though even there I'm not sure it's the correct word to use.

Ha! Yes, you're right. Sorry - same etymology. But yes - tenet is what I mean (though tenant, now that you bring it to my attention, is sort of poetic in a way). Tenet, pillar, essential part of, universal attribute - whatever.

Melancholy is an essential part of the human experience. The mot juste evades me, forgive me.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:13 PM on September 1, 2009

Someone I know suffers from depression. It sounds similar in a way to what you're experiencing, but not exactly the same. The "cloud" (as she refers to it) floats in occasionally, and sits over her head. Nothing she does can shift it until it goes away of it's own accord. It sits there and sucks all the joy out of her life. She's not particularly depressed, just neutral. It doesn't really affect her life too much, but she just can't be happy about stuff.

These phases seem to last between a couple of weeks to a couple of months. The only thing that she's found that makes them go away is entering into the state. Sitting quietly watching the rain fall, and stuff like that. Once she's accepted that she's down, and allows herself to be down, the cloud moves off.
posted by Solomon at 10:36 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You are the best observer of your life and body cycles, so when you ask could it be hormonal and then indicate that you have had irregular cycles, I'd say, "yep."

Have you looked into physical causes like polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid, etc.?

You say no seasonal effects, but yet it's 3 times a year. Sometimes even a good change in weather, as from hot and humid to cool and dry, can affect a body.

But still. You might want to get the hormones and thyroid checked out and give way too much TMI to the doc, more than you've given here.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:41 PM on September 1, 2009

dysthymia; if it's enough to cause problems with your every day life, you'll be diagnosed and offered treatment. And depending on the diagnoser, an upgrade over dysthymia.

If you're strong enough to not have it incapacitate you, you'll likely be told to suck it up.

IME, it sucks and still sucks, but ... yeah. There's probably formalized therapies that can help you cope that might be more effective and less painful than the ones that you've found on your own to cope.
posted by porpoise at 10:48 PM on September 1, 2009

I just mean that in our current culture there is this pressure, this expectation that humans should be happy all the time. But sadness is an important emotion, one that should be recognized as a healthy emotion - and the occasional 'funk,' for some, might simply be the normal cycle of human emotions.

Quoted for truth. My two cents.
posted by scody at 11:45 PM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

This is normal. Is the weather nice 3/4 of the time? Do things work out 3/4 of the time? Are people nice 3/4 of the time? No? Then consider yourself on the plus side. "But into every life a little rain must fall." Feeling down 1/4 of the time is pretty damn good, considering the actual ratio of crap that one needs to deal with in a lifetime. It's a part of life - things aren't ever 100% sunny.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:00 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm melancholy and weird to start with, but when there are hurricanes rumbling around in the southeast (I'm in the northeast) I feel a particular type of crushing misery I don't experience at other times. It's like someone is crushing my head between two hands and whispering about how utterly awful the world is.

I know this is crazy. Nobody believes me, and whenever I've Googled it I get crackpot websites, so I understand I'm not going to get anywhere with it.

But anyway -- maybe there's an environmental factor of some kind. It doesn't seem like that big a deal, you're pretty happy the rest of the time. Is there anywhere you could right down the dates of its occurrence and some other notes, the weather, how much you've been exercising, what you've been eating, to see if you can see any patterns.

Another thing for me is refined flour and sugar. If I go through a couple of days of poor eating--pizza, then ice cream, then chips, then soda, etc. etc., I start getting depressed.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:35 AM on September 2, 2009

OK, silly old mum here: Around here, we call it itchy-bum. It's when nothing, absolutely nothing sits right, even your favourite clothes, and there isn't a single thing on earth that you'd enjoy eating or doing. I think it's perfectly normal and, here at least, is usually cured by something joyously physical, fresh air, and a total break from everyday routine. I really don't think people were meant to live lives as organized and clock-controllled as we do these days and need to break out occasionally to let our more primal selves out a bit.
posted by x46 at 3:24 AM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]

It's the kind of funk that results in getting bangs you hate just to shake things up a little. Mine tends to hit about this time of year and often lasts into January and February. My doctor put me on a small amount of Wellbutrin for two winters and while it did help, it helped by neutralizing all my attitudes - even the good ones. So if you're sure it's not the real, life-affecting kind of depression in which you can't get out of bed, try to treat it yourself, through eating good food, spending time with friends, and making plans for something fun a month or two down the line to have something to occupy your mind with planning. It really does help the restlessness to have something to look forward to.
posted by theraflu at 4:42 AM on September 2, 2009

I get this too - going through a bout of it right now, as a matter of fact - and for me I can usually draw a connecting line between the mood and plain old fatigue: too much work, too little rest, and a nagging feeling that the work itself is futile and not doing much good. It's that little son of a bitch in the back of my head that pipes up every now and then to say "Ha ha, you're wasting your life."

It usually passes in a day or two, and in the meantime I just try to lay low and not be too much of an asshole to the people I love.

Also, this article might be of interest - a few good insights in there.
posted by jbickers at 5:35 AM on September 2, 2009

Given that you're having issues with your menstrual cycle as well, it would be a good idea to go get a full physical done. Get all the bloodwork; have them test your B12 and thyroid and all that stuff. It may be a simple physical issue, so it's worth ruling that out.

re: St John's Wort
Interactions include:
  • Possible decrease in effectiveness of reserpine, warfarin, theophylline, immunosuppressant medications such as cyclosporine, and antiviral drugs such as indinavir.
  • Dangerous interactions when used with other antidepressant medicines (especially MAOIs), digoxin, and loperamide.
  • Interactions with oral birth control pills. St. John's wort may interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills, increasing the risk of pregnancy; an alternative form of birth control should be considered while taking St. John's wort. In addition, women taking both birth control pills and St. John's wort may notice bleeding between menstrual periods.
Herbs are drugs too. Treat them with respect.
posted by heatherann at 5:53 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd strongly suggest keeping a simple chart of your moods, your menstrual cycle, and anything else that you think might be helping cause this. Make it very simple so that it takes 30 seconds a day to check off -- maybe just checkboxes for "depressed today", "menstruating", "external stress", and, I dunno... exercise? sleep? weather? Whatever you think might be important. This will help you to see patterns, particularly if they're linked to your cycle or seasonal changes.

Doing exactly this was how I realized that my recurrent depressions were hormonal. I felt pretty stupid when I realized it -- I mean, how obvious could it be that I missed it? But it didn't come every month, and my cycle wasn't exactly 28 days, and... I don't know, I just didn't see it. Until I started keeping a chart. At which point it was glaringly obvious. I went to the doc, got diagnosed with Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and got put on an SSRI. Some people take the SSRI only during the relevant weeks of their cycle, others take it all the time. And you know what? Now my life doesn't suck quite so much for however many days a month.

In the meantime, keep taking the other advice here about keeping yourself well in the meantime, including seeing a therapist if you so choose. Feeling like crap sucks. I know that down days are a part of everybody's life, but when you're dealing with depression, it's far too easy to let that thought keep you from getting the help you need.

Best of luck, and feel free to memail me!
posted by wyzewoman at 7:03 AM on September 2, 2009

Patients like me has a good mood tracker, if you'd like. I can't link it from here, so you have to google it.
posted by kathrineg at 7:12 AM on September 2, 2009

Melancholy is a tenant of life.

Melancholy moves in, a boarder
breakfasting with us
rummaging through our cupboards for a midnight snack

I've taken in melancholy as a week-to-week renter
thank goodness not on a long term lease
interrupting, disruptive
the funk, it grows tiresome

Sick of melancholy, it is time for a new tenant
I interview happiness and decide that she can stay.
posted by yohko at 8:08 AM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]

Herbs are drugs too. Treat them with respect.

Yes, I didn't mean to say that one should start taking St. John's wort with abandon. I'm on anti-ds and I can't take it. Good advice. Consult a respected herbalist or ND.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:59 AM on September 2, 2009

This seems normal to me. We all get in funks, sometimes for weeks at a time. It can be triggered by stress, changes in the weather, changes at work, lots of stuff on your mind, etc. Boredom and melancholy happen. It doesn't mean something's wrong with you necessarily. It means you are aware and feeling the full spectrum of human emotions, reacting normally to different experiences. Even within this kind of funk there is a whole range of feelings from general malaise to being an all-out "grumpypants" (as my sister likes to call it).

If you're tired of feeling this way while you're in the middle of a funk, do something special for yourself, go out with friends or spend some time alone (whichever nurtures you most), exercise, watch a movie that always makes you laugh, and pick an event in the future to look forward to. Just keep kicking! We can't be on the mountaintop all the time. That's why they're mountaintops.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:15 PM on September 2, 2009

I agree that we have acultured (?) ourselves to expect happiness at all times and that getting the melancholies is viewed as a negative. And I agree that a full life must have ups and downs.

What I disagree with is that the "bouts of melancholia" should be accepted or left unexamined. If the world is shitting on you and work sucks and your dog is ignoring you, it's right to feel down. But if everything is seemingly normal, and the foul mood remains, it's time to figure something out.

Things to consider- hormonal/chemical imbalance (that was my problem). Unexamined/unacknowledged hopes dreams of wishes unfulfilled. (You forgot that you always wanted to be a lumberjack, but in your subconscious, you are punishing yourself for not becoming said lumberjack). Negative people in your life whose constant drumbeat of subtle cynicism and negativity is bringing you down. Etc.

My advice is: when these bouts occur, and taking a long weekend to pamper yourself and re-energize with things you enjoy works to bring you back to normal, you are normal. If, however, it doesn't, it's time to dig deeper. It could be that you really don't enjoy the things you believe you do*, or it could be that you have a biological-type of imbalance that's causing you to be down.

*Too many people get themselves stuck in the endless chase of what they truly enjoy, and what they believe they should enjoy, or what they want to be seen as enjoying. Or, fulfilling some role in their lives not as they believe it should be fulfilled, but as they believe others would have them do it. Example- I know a guy who enjoys working on computers and enjoys helping people, and enjoys the feeling of being a go-to person for people who have computer needs. But instead of just being available to help, he concentrates on the good feeling he gets. So he goes around manufacturing problems for him to solve, or trying to solve people's problems who didn't ask for it. Like "Hey, Bob, what kind of computer should I buy?" Instead of answering this, he demands the opportunity to show his brilliance by fixing their old one. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't. So he ends up creating failures for himself when he could have been successful if he'd just focused on being helpful rather than misreading the other person's mind and trying to be more helpful than they wanted.
posted by gjc at 7:06 AM on September 3, 2009

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