I am living a wasted life. Tell me how to live.
November 10, 2009 1:56 PM   Subscribe

I am living a wasted life. Depressed and stuck. I know this question has been asked a million times in a million different ways by a million different people. But I want to ask it myself, and hear what you say to me, because I am at the end of my rope.

I am weeks away from my 33rd birthday. I am 200 lbs. overweight. I am separated from my husband of 5 years, and in the midst of getting a divorce. I never really was in love with him (he was a good friend, but not a person I ever was sexually attracted to. I am sure he was never attracted to me either). I think we married each other because we were both lost and didn't know what else to do.

I am sad over the end of the marriage, not because I fell out of love, but because it is a wake-up call that I wasted years of my life. I lived years of my life in a marraige, and now that it has ended, nothing has changed. I failed, and I am still the same paralyzed, reclusive, anxious, undependable, scared girl.

Earlier this year/late last year I was out of work for about 3 months due to depression, and luckily I still have a job. I just missed 4 more days of work. I don't know what happens to me. I am fine for months at a time, but then I wake up one morning and just. can't. get. in. the. shower. I sit in bed paralyzed with the thought of facing the day. That leads me to a downward spiral of missing days and days of work. I was suicidal late last year, I'm not now. I'm stuck.

I can't get myself to do even the most simple of things, like changing the cat litter, cleaning the apartment, answering the phone. I have mental blocks. If I have to pee, I will literally sit and debate with myself for an hour over whether to get up and go to the bathroom. I will sit for days knowing that I should get out and exercise, but instead I will watch tv, or lurk on mefi. I love food, and have an emotional relationship with food, but the thought of having to cook a healthy meal makes me tired before I even start.

While I'm at work or forced to be in a social environment, I am different. I am "on" - I talk and joke and do quality work. But it's just a shell that can be so easily broken, and has been.

I have friends but I loose them because I don't communicate with them because I can't bear the thought of leaving my home to meet with them or pick up the phone and call them.

Things you should know:

1. I am currently on anti-depressants, and see a psychiatrist about once a month for medication management. I have been on and off various anti-depressants for about 10 years and will continue to work with my current doctor to get the right combo of medication that works for me. But I also know that drugs can't solve everything.

2. I know I need to go to therapy. I KNOW this. I go, once, twice, then I stop. I think I found a good therapist, so how do I make myself go?

3. I know I need to go to bed earlier. I know I need to exercise. I know I need to eat less and eat healthier. I know I need to maintain relationships. I know I need to find activities. So far I haven't been able to do any of these things for extended periods of time.

I want your advice on how to live my life. I am like a 33 year old infant. I am completely overwhelmed. I don't know how to function as a human being. I think I will die and I will still be the same stale, lifeless person. I will have lived a wasted life. I'm really am not living, I'm only breathing. Can you tell me anything to help me?

email: wastedlife1@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (55 answers total) 97 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like me!

After a decade of antidepressants that didn't do anything (and, as a consequence, neither did I), it suddenly occurred to me: The depression was caused by lack of motivation, constant procrastination, easy distractability, and not the other way around. In other words: ADD.

Ritalin did wonders. YMMV.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2009 [17 favorites]

Get serious about the weight (since you mentioned it.) I know...it's easy to say. Start slow with long walks. The exercise will help elevate your mood, Losing weight will help elevate your mood and give you a sense that you can accomplish goals. People will notice the weight loss and that will help elevate your mood. Weight loss is also a long-term project which will work to get you focused on something productive.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:17 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

Maybe find some volunteer work helping others, such as at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or working with the disabled, or with children, etc? Sometimes helping others can help to put one's own life in perspective, and allows one to stop dwelling and obsessing over one's own life. We gain a lot from helping others. Knowing you're not alone in your mental health issues may help: if you see how many others are struggling, it may give you resolve in your own struggle by just knowing it's not just you. And 33 is not that old! Lastly, the very fact that you are able to describe your predicament indicates you are capable of changing it. But you need to focus on small steps. Good luck.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 2:17 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Exercise, healthy food, fresh air and around 8 hours of sleep at a fixed time, everyday.
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 2:23 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

I am so sorry to hear you are going through all this - and I know (unfortunately from personal experience) that this is how it feels in a very, very dark place as you seem to be now. And I do empathize with the feeling of "wasted life" - that's how it felt when I was going through four major depressive episodes.

There is no magic recipe for fixing your life, or living it. At the moment, I am hoping that my own dark moments belong in the past (touch wood, that's how it's been for the past three years). And so I do hope that you will hang in there long enough to find out for yourself that moving on is a possibility and find your own way to do that. What helped me was a combination of many things - going to yoga classes three times a week, dragging myself to church every Sunday, talking to the pastor, talking to the counsellor, sticking to the meds. I When I was really low, I would call the helplines, found Samaritans really good (www.samaritans.org, you can also e-mail them and they will respond within 48 hours). And no, I did not believe this would work, and in a way none of it worked in isolation. And I am still not really sure why it worked - but I do hope things will work out for you. Finally, in the greater scheme of things, I find it hard to believe that your life has been wasted or will continue to be like that.

Hang in there. Have faith. And do try yoga (the classes I do are "yoga in daily life", it is very nice and calm and meditative, and did wonders for my mood - I am sure there is something similar out there you might come to rely on). Take care of yourself.
posted by coffee_monster at 2:24 PM on November 10, 2009

No one can fight another person's battles. Other people can show you technique, they can make you weapons, they can even fight their own battles alongside you, but at the end of the day you're the one who is going to have to wield the sword.

Stop feeling self-pity, stop getting caught in the same broken cycles again and again, stop overthinking things, and start acting.

Every single person in the world has been where you are, and I hate to say it but there are only two roads out. One is self-destruction, aka continuing on the path you are on, the other is transformation, aka DOING SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR SITUATION.

Start huge, find your dream and let nothing stand between you and achieving it. Create a vision for your life, you're still young, you have plenty of time to change, change, and change some more, but create for yourself a framework to help you live your life. Think from the perspective of a life well-lived, at the end of the day, when you've put in your good 120 years on God's great earth, how was the world better off because you lived?

I wish I could help you more, but like I said, no one can help you, you have to help yourself.
posted by satori_movement at 2:24 PM on November 10, 2009 [13 favorites]

My challenges are being organized and not letting everything pile up. It sounds like you might be the same way. I find it helpful to set small goals such as cleaning the cat litter on Monday night, doing the dishes on Tuesday night, doing half the laundry on Wednesday night, etc.

You may find your tasks more managable if you aren't listing ALL of them at once.

Similarly, with reference to point #3, you have laid out 5 specific goals, which I think are great ones.

-go to bed earlier
-eat less and eat healthier
-maintain relationships
-find activities

Why not focus on the first 3 for now?

I find eating at least reasonably well, getting a good sleep and exercising puts me in a good mood.

Then, I find that relationships/activities are more mentally tolerable when I'm already feeling confident from meeting my personal goals. Interacting with others is at least a little bit draining if you need to be "on" for a period of time.

I think others will be able to comment specifically on the mental health aspect of your question.
posted by cranberrymonger at 2:24 PM on November 10, 2009

I am sad over the end of the marriage, not because I fell out of love, but because it is a wake-up call that I wasted years of my life. I lived years of my life in a marraige, and now that it has ended, nothing has changed. I failed, and I am still the same paralyzed, reclusive, anxious, undependable, scared girl.

This attitude would imply that there is some sort of stone tablet that orbits Jupiter that states that it is the God's truth that we must do "something" (always undefined that one is!) with our lives and that if we do not, we are wasting our lives.

Such a tablet would also apparently state that there is something wrong with being paralyzed, reclusive, anxious, scared and undependable.

There is no tablet. There is no list of things that are right and wrong. All of that comes not from outside, but inside.

What you have is powerful, controlling, toxic shame at who you are as a person. You have internalized another's demanding, painful attacks on yourself and turned them into your gut feelings, which you are referencing as the law of the universe.

Therapy is in order, because you have avoided these feelings for years. You will have to now feel them. It will be painful, but they will finally pass. And then, you can start to live.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:44 PM on November 10, 2009 [54 favorites]

I know I need to go to bed earlier. I know I need to exercise. I know I need to eat less and eat healthier. I know I need to maintain relationships. I know I need to find activities.

First of all: you don't need to do any of these things. They would probably be very helpful and would make you happier, yes. But don't feel like you need to do them. Sometimes part of depression is that we beat ourselves up for not doing certain things.

You aren't living a wasted life, because you have no obligation to "achieve" anything.

You are allowed to stay in bed, you are allowed to sit on the couch. You do not have to be perfect. You are a worthy human being even if you do nothing at all. As you know from reading the many questions on MeFi that you have mentioned, you are not alone in being imperfect.

Have you read Feeling Good, by David Burns? It has lots of great advice. Even just the first 50-60 pages or so can be life-changing.

Don't cook a healthy meal. Cook an unhealthy meal. Or buy a healthy meal. Or cook a healthy snack. Take little steps. Congratulate yourself on every little victory.

And even if you take no steps at all to change your life, you will still be a worthy human being -- just by virtue of being a human being.

Everyone is allowed to do nothing.

You are worthy.

You are worthy.

You are worthy.
posted by Tin Man at 2:50 PM on November 10, 2009 [83 favorites]

I recently went through a similar thing. Here's a small, simple thing that might help.

Establish a ROUTINE. It can be anything that's pleasant and easily achievable. I started every day with a specific drink and snack at a nationwide overpriced coffee chain. Then I'd go home, walk the dogs, and shower. I did this every day, and it helped me get back on my feet.

Good luck. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Women are like tea bags-- we don't know our own strength until we are put in hot water."
posted by metaseeker at 2:53 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Stop hating yourself.

You're a fine person. You're a fine person at 350 pounds or whatever you weigh, and if you make lifestyle changes that result in your losing a significant amount of weight, you'll be a fine person at that weight. If you make lifestyle changes and get healthier and don't lose one ounce, you'll be a fine person at that weight. If you make lifestyle changes and get healthier and gain a few pounds, guess what? STILL A FINE PERSON. You are not a number on a scale: you are a human being.

If someone else, someone you cared about told you this story, what would you say to them? Would you say "Just give up" or would you say "You're an amazing person with lots to give the world; you just have to care about yourself enough to take care of yourself?"

Okay, once again: STOP HATING YOURSELF.

How to stop hating yourself?

Therapy. But if you can't get to therapy, let me recommend Facing Codependence by Mellody, Miller, and Miller. And anything by Alice Miller (no relation to the other Miller). And anything by Geneen Roth, if you are a compulsive or emotional eater (as many, but not all, people who weigh hundreds of pounds over their preferred weight are).

Here's another thing. Get a picture of yourself as a little kid. Think about that little kid, not as OH MY GOD THE HORRIBLE PERSON YOU GREW UP TO BE (note: you are not actually a horrible person, but your brain is trying to convince you of that), but as a little kid.

That little kid deserves to be loved, right? That little kid deserves to be taken care of and fed delicious, healthy meals, right? That little kid deserves to do fun things, yes?

Well, that little kid is you. You deserve all of that. Yes, you do.

I love you, because you are a fellow human who is in pain and reaching out for help and trying to live your life. That's beautiful. You're beautiful. You're trapped in a world of pain and instead of taking it out on other people, you take it out on yourself, and I love you for your consideration of others.

But now I want you, anonymous stranger whom I love, to show a little bit of that consideration for yourself. If you can't do it for yourself, do it for the people in your life who love you. If you can't do it for them, do it for me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:54 PM on November 10, 2009 [66 favorites]

Sent you an email, but I can't favorite what Tin Man said enough.
posted by Kimberly at 2:57 PM on November 10, 2009

Also, I didn't stop hating myself until I was around your age, and I swear to God if you can stop it, it changes everything. The worst day of my life now is better than the best day of my life when I hated myself.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:57 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry for the fix you are in and I can relate to the pit of sadness and apathy that one can fall into. When I feel that way (and, fortunately it is less than when I was your age), everything seems so overwhelming.

All the ideas suggested above are, of course, good ones. But my problem with global suggestions are that they are too big and too vague. It is too hard, too much, too...whatever when I'm really blue.

What has helped me in the past are tiny, baby steps that are specifically defined. Not, "get some excercise each day." But instead, "tonight when I get home from work I will walk to the end of the block and back before I do anything else." or "tonight when I am in front of the T.V., I will do 5 leg lifts with each leg." Something really doable--that doesn't require joining a gym or buying equipment or delaying things in anyway. Then, when you do it--take a minute and really celebrate your success. I love to write my goal in a notepad and then get the reward of crossing it off.

Same thing with the diet. 200 pounds is scary to think about. But giving up one sugary soda at day or stopping eating after dinner or only having one snack in front of the TV at night--whatever is doable. Put it on your list and cross it off.

Then add accomplishments a little at a time--maybe you walk to the end of the block twice later on. You see my point. Remember it took 33 years to get here, it will take a while to make things better.

I also have recommended this book before--it really helps: The Beck Diet Solution. It follows Cognitive Behavioral Therapy process for changing eating habits and there is now a workbook that goes along with it.

As I said, all the suggestions are good above, but you need to approach things in a way that gives you immediate rewards and will help you keep momentum going forward. If you are a people person it might help you to find a group of individuals working on the same issues--if you have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) through work, call the 800 number, they have an amazing assortment of resources and it is confidential and mostly free or low cost. Otherwise, talk to the Dr. with whom you're working on meds to get suggestions.

Find one thing you can do right now. Right this second that will make you feel better. And then, do it. Get up from your chair and do some stretches. Walk down the hall and back. I'll wait................................Congratulations! You have started doing something positive for yourself!

You have my very best wishes.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:05 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]

Support. In a different way. Small steps - but firm ones - going from helpless to strong. Find community - a motivation buddy might be the course of action to begin right now. Your life is yours to design. Pick up a color and paint it with a new direction. Start HERE.
posted by watercarrier at 3:09 PM on November 10, 2009

This book is wise and helpful. There is nothing wrong with you.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:13 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I probably won't be the only one to mention this, but I can attest to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques used in the book Feeling Good, which you can buy and get started on even without a therapist. Ask your therapist if s/he is familiar with the book and if you can work on it together. I think it'll increase your motivation to go to therapy, because having stuff you can do at home will help you both to extend the sense of resolve you get after a therapy session and you'll have something to show your therapist when you get there.

Also, I agree with the posters above who mention that ADD drugs and treatment might work well for you, but be careful with them, because in some people they can cause a crash in the wearing-off phase that feels a lot like depression. I got a prescription for Adderall and that effect compelled me to stop. It's as good a thing to investigate as any other, but if that's the route you take, make sure to take notice of whether this happens to you or not.

For your daily life I heartily recommend meditation, and I say this as a non-religious skeptic. I found this to be a good (free and online) guide, though you really don't have to read the whole thing to get started. The basic idea is just to find a place to sit comfortably, and put the part of your mind that's always generating thoughts about yourself and your situation to rest. Focus on your breathing, closing your eyes if you need to, and instead of thinking about it, just concentrate on it the way you might concentrate on a difficult task like driving through the snow, and feel the pure sense information your mind is receiving without analyzing it in any way. If a thought comes into your mind (it will), acknowledge it without agitation but send it off gently, keeping it from sticking around and blossoming into a train of thought like you experience in regular consciousness. It takes practice, but you'll find yourself getting better at it as you continue. Like agatha_magatha says, think of it in terms of a small task for every day. Just ten minutes, set a timer. It takes some mental work, but it actually feels good while you're doing it.

It maybe sounds like the path to apathy instead of happiness, but what I've gotten out of it is a certain freedom from my thinking self. I certainly haven't reached the point where I live my life free from self-judgment, but more and more I find myself doing the positive things that I want to only because I want to do them and not because I feel I should, or it'll solve my problems or the problems of others, or any other sort of external justification. I think you'll get this, and you will hopefully come to the realization that in any one instant, you are, as a conscious being, a miraculous and wonderful thing. If that's true in any instant you choose it is true all of the time. You are always so, and you have so many options in every instant to channel this into the world. It's not a cure-all and it's definitely not a substitute for the concrete recommendations above, because concrete problems need concrete solutions, but I think it will give you a good framework for making sure that those solutions keep working. I promise you that you are a miraculous and wonderful being. I think you can convince yourself that that's true. Good luck and much love.
posted by invitapriore at 3:14 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I too recently went through a phase of debilitating inaction. I spent the last few years of my life at the bottom of a bottle of whiskey, unable to complete even the simplest of actions. I eventually got to the point where I knew that I couldn't sustain living in this way, so I started looking for answers anywhere I could find them. That's when I came across this blog: Zen Habits. Leo's story inspired me quite a bit because I could see exactly how much he had accomplished in a year's time. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by focusing on all the things we want to change in our lives. Leo's blog showed me that so much could be accomplished in the span of a year just by taking small steps everyday toward bettering your life. Anyhow, I recommend checking it out.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 3:21 PM on November 10, 2009

Wow. It's like hearing from my former self.

It's very true that even if others could give you a magic formula for success, you'll still have to scare up the energy to put those things into practice for yourself. You'll have to find the motivation to get out of bed and into the shower in the morning, and then push through the process of figuring out what to wear, and then muscle your way out the door to work. Each day is the same for all of us: one step at a time.

The things that were of most value to me:

A great therapist
Real desire to change my life
Improved diet and exercise
Making an effort to spend time with friends

But I think the first thing you need to do is to give yourself some credit for realizing what's wrong and working on making some improvements. It's easy to get wound up in a cycle of defeat where even the best recovery program is discarded because it isn't working right now. You have to be patient and keep pushing through, and don't allow the voice in the back of your head to convince you that you're not making any progress. That voice lies. Be patient with yourself but keep moving forward.

Like some of the others have mentioned, I was also diagnosed with ADD and Adderall made an enormous difference for me, too. If you think this may be an issue for you, consider mentioning it to your doctor and see what s/he thinks.

You're still young at 33. Get a handle on this now. You don't want to be in the same place in ten years, wishing that you'd taken action. The only time you can waste is the time in front of you. You can memail me if you'd like to talk.

Best wishes.
posted by contrariwise at 3:23 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yes, yes, yes to Feeling Good!!1! It's one of the most helpful self-help books ever written.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:23 PM on November 10, 2009

This is so simple but I swear it works: get an exercise buddy. If someone's waiting at your door, you'll have no excuse not to get up and go.
posted by yarly at 3:27 PM on November 10, 2009

following up on Tin Man's point...

It's so easy to get caught up in what isn't happening and what you aren't doing. This can be a deal breaker for me, so when i feel the way you describe, I have to think small. Set tiny goals for yourself, nothing epic, and see if those feel doable. Perhaps getting out of bed to get the mail, or brushing your teeth or getting a soda.

Therapy is tough and if you think you have found a person you can work with you have won half of that battle. Don't worry about visit frequency or even if you feel like going now. When you are ready you will go and it will get easier with time.

I know how horrible you are feeling, and I hope you feel better soon...
posted by macadam9 at 3:29 PM on November 10, 2009

Seconding most everything here. Just wanted to add that if there are 12-step meetings in your area, you may want to go to a few and see if they make sense to you. They may not, but they might. There are 12-step meetings for alcoholics, codependents, the abused, overeaters, anything. You do not have to believe in God.

The combined wisdom and experience in the meetings are so for the win. It's free, too. The 12 steps are also a plan of action - you do something and something happens. There's much to be said for that.

I have a friend in OA (overeaters anonymous) - she's lost probably 50 pounds by gaining control of her eating habits while simultaneously working on understanding and working on the emotional issues causing her problems. It was a complete transformation, simply amazing.
posted by krilli at 3:32 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

With respect to stimulants such as Adderall: yes, they are sometimes prescribed for depression. No, they shouldn't be. The problem with using stimulants to treat depression is not that they don't work (they do), it's that they don't work for long. The affective benefits drop off after a few weeks due to tolerance, at which point the patient has three options: 1) increase the dosage, 2) continue taking it with little or no benefit, or 3) stop taking it, and deal with rebound mood issues that are, in some cases, worse than the original symptoms. It's a lose-lose-lose scenario.

Bottom line: if you're on antidepressants and they're not helping in an obvious way, you shouldn't be on them. Treatment should go like this:

- Work medication A up to therapeutic dose
- Wait ~1 month
- If there are no benefits, increase dosage
- Wait about a week more
- If there are no benefits, try medication B

If you're not making progress, you should be trying something new every 1.5-2.0 months. You need to keep doing this until you find something that works. If you're not sure whether it's working, it's not. And if it's not working, all it's doing is costing you money, giving you side-effects, and making you lose hope. No one should be on an ineffective antidepressant regimen for years.

With regards to therapy: if your therapist is not specifically practicing cognitive-behavioral therapy, consider finding one that does. It's one of the only forms of therapy with empirically-demonstrated benefits. It sounds like you're getting trapped in self-defeating thought patterns, and CBT is specifically about shaping those into something more productive.

Note that meds and therapy are not going to make you better on their own. Their purpose is to give you a bit of strength and resilience while you pull yourself out of the psychic hole. What's important in the long-term are 1) goals you can work towards and 2) fulfilling human relationships. That’s what makes life worthwhile again.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:40 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

Volunteering is a good idea because it ends up being something you have to get out and do, because (sometimes, depending on what it is) people actually end up counting on you.
Make an important goal.
Take a class in something useful. etc.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 3:43 PM on November 10, 2009

I've been in and out of depression for the past 20 years or so. I was in therapy, on meds, etc. and I'd get better for a year or so, then right back down again.

6 years ago, I had to move 300 miles away from my hometown, family, and friends for a (great) new job. As winter approached, I knew I could not go back home very frequently, so I went to the local animal shelter and found a wonderful little kitty to keep me company.

YMMV, but that little 4-legged angel saved me twice in the past 6 years. I've been off meds for over 7 years, and still have a great job. 4 years ago, when I got the surprise divorce notice, I went down pretty quick - but I was able to keep it together (no meds), and here I am.

I still have my days, some pretty dark, but since I got another 4-legged companion a year ago, I'm doing *much* better. My (now) 4-year old rescue dog is such a needy thing compared to the kitty, but we get out and get exercise, which really does help.

My two little housemates ask little, are always there for me, and when I'm blue, they sense that, and are very close at those times.

Best wishes!
posted by Aztekker at 3:58 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]

Lots of good suggestions here, and I don't want to seem like a one-liner is an all-encompassing solution, but here's my contribution:

Get a dog. It forces you to go outside. It forces you to exercise. Going outside & getting exercise can be the first step to everything else.
posted by desjardins at 4:11 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I empathise with your feelings. I've been there and I also struggle with depression on a daily basis.

It sounds so reductive to say this, but what helped me enormously was getting a dog. [Now we have two dogs!] They make me get up and exercise. They have helped me find in myself the capacity for love. The routine they create in my life is an antidote for sleeping or crying the days away. It's amazing how pounding the pavements of my neighbourhood, or leafy parks, or a day at the river throwing sticks into the water for them to fetch takes me out of my head and into my body.

It's not the dog per se, it's what our dog[s] has allowed to blossom in me. It was such a hurdle to think I could even take care of a creature, and yet it has been such a catalyst to my personal change.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:12 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Or, what desjardins said...
posted by honey-barbara at 4:12 PM on November 10, 2009

Another suggestion: when you see the psychologist, you might want to ask about avoidant personality disorder, or read about it on your own.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:17 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

And another suggestion: a very easy way to start losing weight is to stop eating sugar. Most processed foods have sugar, so you'll have to check the labels of just about everything. Also, for non-processed foods, find out where they are on the glycemic index and choose alternatives that have a low number.

Even if you still eat a fairly large number of calories, even if you take in a lot of fat, I think you'll lose a noticeable amount of weight without trying just by doing this.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:36 PM on November 10, 2009

One of the best pieces of advice I've been given for sticking to a routine is this: "When you slip up, don't beat yourself up, just get back on the wagon!" It seems so obvious, but it's very easy when trying to stick to an exercise regimen to stop completely when you miss one goal. Instead, don't think of yourself as a failure! Just put it behind you and try your best to meet the next goal.

In terms of exercise, which I think can do wonders for one's mental health, I've heard great things about this program. It's designed to help people of any physical fitness level get in shape and learn to run. They're not kidding when they say "couch" to 5k.

I know it's hard to see from where you're standing, but you are worthy.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:38 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Whatever you are doing is not working by definition. You need to change. Everything. Your meds are not working. Your doctor needs to know that.

Before you get a dog, get a friend to commit to picking you up and taking you to both the prescribing doctor and the therapist. Work with both to set up a plan to get you out of your depression. Doing it alone will not help. Puppy is part of the plan, but not THE plan.

Take little steps one at a time.

Good luck.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:46 PM on November 10, 2009

Beyond underlining Sidhedevil and Tin Man wrote, I will say that something that worked for me was taking a long view about things, instead of the whole "force yourself to do X Y Z now and let the future happen" things that people sometimes push.

The key is to set a goal that's fairly vague, and really easy, and challenge yourself as you go along to do more. I think you will be delighted in your ability to rise to challenges. But it's key that you know they are voluntary challenges; they are optional things that aren't actually central to your goal.

So, I would say you should think hard about where you want to be at 40. That's a long way off! There's plenty of time to meander, to smell the flowers, etc. But you know, think about the positive little step you can take, some small thing like trying to join a book club or whatever it is people do that want to make friends (don't ask at me).

But don't think about that piddly stuff right now, think about where you want to be at 40 and realize that you can't just do it all in the 11th month of your 39th year. Take the long view and let the little things take care of themselves.

As for the cat litter—nobody likes changing it. But if you don't, then you end up with a little mountain of cat poop in the litterbox which your cat has to climb to deposit the next little piece, followed by guilty-kitty secret pooping behavior under tables and on clothes you left on the floor. Probably you want to keep cleaning it.

There's no rush. You're okay now, you'll be okay.
posted by fleacircus at 5:59 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

has your doc checked your thyroid levels?
posted by rmd1023 at 6:14 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know we're supposed to just answer rather than comment, but damn I wish I'd had this list a couple down periods in my life! Put this up on the fridge and in a year or so show up to some metafilter meetup, looking good and all pulled together, and it'll just be one huge hugfest! Hang in there!
posted by sammyo at 6:15 PM on November 10, 2009

Don't think about making changes as a form of rebuke for how "bad" you've been.

Eat nourishing, healthy meals because it makes you feel better--not because you need to change your horrible eating habits that have made you fat (or whatever mean tape you play in your head about this).

Exercise however much you can because it makes you feel good afterwards, gets you outside, whatever--not because you need to get your lazy butt out of the house (or whatever else you tell yourself now). Choose an activity that feels fun, not like punishment for being overweight. I hate hate hate jogging--but riding my bike feels like a treat. Who cares if it's slightly less aerobically efficient, at the pace I ride. Don't stop trying new things til you find something you actually LIKE.
posted by availablelight at 6:15 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]

[PS In case you look up my commenting history, I am skinny on the outside, but I have some other aerobic issues that in the past have made me feel out of shape compared to my peers--at the same time that it's really important for me to stay as active as I can--so I do understand feeling like exercise is punishment (or embarrassment) even though you need it.]
posted by availablelight at 6:19 PM on November 10, 2009

"Today I got a shower" was the big goal of my day for weeks back in the late summer of 2004, when I was getting untangled from the first Mr. F. Then it was "hey, I did the dishes," and some days, "hey, I got a shower AND I did the dishes."

Leaving the house? Didn't even think about it. Getting a job? Ha, bullshit, what job. (NOTE: I was in a financial position to do this. If you're not, that's *very* different and you need to either put "today, I went to work" or "today, I contacted social services" on your list before anything else. MeFites are very good at connecting each other to the right social services in dire straits; if you need that, come back and ask when you have a question.)

I did that for a year. Shower, dishes, make sandwich, go back to my room. Sometimes, I'd hang out with my extremely tolerant housemates. Occasional runs out to eat or get groceries or shop. Laundry, when I was feeling adventurous. "Today I'm gonna walk to the mailbox" was a big thing for a while.

By spring 2005, I noticed that I was suddenly looking at want ads and college catalogs and apartment listings, and I knew I ought to add "getting out of the house regularly to do something useful" to my list. At that point, I enrolled in community college full-time; by August of '06, I had a steady gig in my field, and by December of '08, I'd graduated from college and ended up in a lead position at my job. I had a therapist for some parts of this, and some of them I just did because I didn't know what else to do at the time.

You sound like you need a meds change and possibly a second opinion, OP, and everyone here loves to see a good thyroid-checking, but you might try regarding "today I got a shower" as a Serious Fucking Life Goal for a bit and see if it helps any.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:16 PM on November 10, 2009 [14 favorites]

There are a lot of good suggestions here, so I won't echo what has already been said. I agree that getting your thyroid levels checked is important -- I thought I had cancer, I was so tired all the time -- turns out I had low thyroid.

Being > 100 pounds overweight can be very daunting -- believe me, I know. One resource I have found very helpful is the forums at 3FC. This is a website started by three sisters who were trying to lose weight and wanted to support each other even though they didn't live close by. Other people joined in and now it is where it is today. There are forums for every kind of person, diet, problem, etc... It is mostly women, but there are some men on there too. I have found it to be a very kind and supportive place.

I would also suggest that you focus on what you are doing -- when you do something good for yourself, acknowledge it. Don't focus on what you didn't do.

Be kind to yourself.
posted by elmay at 7:50 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow. I wish I was 33 again!
(I hope this helps :-)
posted by the Real Dan at 8:32 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I am going to go against previous commenters and suggest that if you sometimes have a tough time motivating yourself to get up to pee, now is not the right time for a dog (yet). Having a dog could be great and could drag you out of depression, but if it doesn't, you have a dog that's not getting enough exercise, which could lead to behavior issues (which will feel even more overwhelming to you as a depressed person.)

Something that I've found helpful that might help you: find a weekly activity that involves other people (book club, game group, meditation, yoga) and commit to going three weeks in a row, no matter what, before you give up. After the third time you can quit, but go those three times.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:41 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Everyone's comments have been amazing. i just want to emphasize how important it is to get good sleep. If you can get into a routine that involves going to bed at a decent hour so you can wake up naturally without an alarm clock, I guarantee you will feel so much better physically and emotionally.
posted by kookaburra at 8:48 PM on November 10, 2009

I recently started taking melatonin to help me get to sleep more quickly. It's cheap and available over the counter. Take one tablet an hour before you want to go to sleep. Even if it's just a placebo effect, it works. It's nice to actually be sleepy when you need to wake up for work in eight hours. I've been getting to work on time every day.

As for everything else, it seems overwhelming because you're depressed. Nobody here can wave a magic wand and snap you out of it, but try to be aware that your life feels worse to you at this moment than it is objectively. Keep taking your anti-depressants and try to go to therapy. Know that the misery you're feeling will not always be so overwhelming.

Until that cloud lifts, try to do accomplish a couple of small, manageable things every day. For example, park five minutes walk from your office or house, and eat a salad for lunch everyday this week. Will it change your life? Not right away. But come Saturday, you can tell yourself that, although your depression still makes life seem shitty, the week was not a complete waste.

Good luck, Metafilter is rooting for you. You've already taken a positive step by asking this question.
posted by paulg at 8:48 PM on November 10, 2009

Make sure your meds are working out for you. If not, tell your doctor so that you can tweak the dosage and type. It's not a one-fits-all kind of solution. You may need to increase your dosage or change to another kind. Even with relapse, you need to still be taking these meds as I would guess that you are going through some serious stress from the fall-out of your marriage. Be kind to yourself.
posted by proficiency101 at 9:06 PM on November 10, 2009

I'm seconding what other people are saying here. Baby steps. Baby steps. Get a notebook and write stuff down. You DONT have to fix everything all at once. Just try to fix or do one small thing everyday. Even if the small thing is like take a shower today. Call a friend today. Eat a salad today. Change the cat litter. If you exercise once a week, that's better than not exercising ever. If you write these things down everyday with the date, you get to look at the notebook/planner and see all them add up.

Good luck and stay with it. A lot of people know where you're coming from.
posted by gt2 at 9:17 PM on November 10, 2009


Stand up from the computer.

Take five seconds, and just do three jumping jacks.

Do them now.

Ask yourself now: How do I feel now?

Next time you realize you're thinking about thinking, or thinking about feeling, STOP THINKING, and just do three jumping jacks.

Prove to yourself that you can STOP YOUR THINKING.

And once you've proven to yourself, repeatedly, that you can STOP YOUR OLD THINKING RIGHT NOW, you're in a position to begin making the longer term changes others have suggested.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:53 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

1. Good on you for getting out of a marriage that wasn't happy or fulfilling. Hooray! That's a really huge, good first step--a step that many people never take. Whether or not you precipitated that change, it is still a good thing, and it takes strength to go through it.

2. I 100% agree with everyone who says that the first step is not hating yourself. It sounds impossible, and you shouldn't just set "not hating myself" up as some shining goal. But it's something to keep in mind--you are worthy. You are a human being who deserves love, beginning with love from yourself.

3. My suggestion for how to start living is to focus down on small, small goals. Like, start by saying, grandly: I will take a shower today. Or: I will change the cat litter today. Do that thing, and don't worry about the rest. It's really easy, when making changes, to get overwhelmed by all that you feel you need to do. But you can only do things one at a time, in the moment. So choose to control one moment today. I highly recommend making a little notecard that says "cat litter" on it and then giving yourself a check mark for every day that you do it in a row.

Sure, changing the cat litter a bunch of days in a row isn't a huge, meaningful thing. But it will give you a sense of consistency and a small sense of accomplishment. It will let you know that you can change this one small thing. And that's worthwhile.
posted by hought20 at 6:06 AM on November 11, 2009

This spoke most to me:

"What you have is powerful, controlling, toxic shame at who you are as a person. You have internalized another's demanding, painful attacks on yourself and turned them into your gut feelings, which you are referencing as the law of the universe.

Therapy is in order, because you have avoided these feelings for years. You will have to now feel them. It will be painful, but they will finally pass. And then, you can start to live.

posted by Ironmouth"

I hope you go back to therapy and talk about how hard it is for you to go there.

And please don't listen to the posters who say that you need cognitive-behavioral therapy. I don't care about the "empirical evidence." (but don't want to get into a whole discussion about that). Cognitive-behavioral therapy is superficial and disconnected.

If you have a therapist who can really listen to you and empathize and stick with you where you are at the moment, try to go. I know, it's excruciatingly difficult to trust that a relationship with another person will change your life, when you life in an isolated world where your relationships have never worked out in the past. It takes a leap of faith which you don't have. But try to use the appointments as the reason you get up and dressed on that particular day. And don't try to be "positive" or "logical" when you are there. Let it all out. Allow yourself to speak as miserable as you really feel.

It takes time to establish a deep, trusting relationship with a therapist.

Also I agree with the poster who recommended Overeaters Anonymous. You will definitely find kindred souls there; it's free; and will give you a reason to get out of the house also.

Oh, also I second Geneen Roth's books.

And, even if you weren't in love, divorce is HARD. So pat yourself on the back for making a needed change in your life.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:57 AM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

This brought me out of some tough times...

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
posted by RingerChopChop at 9:39 AM on November 11, 2009 [22 favorites]

I think you need a major change like a move or something. Being a different physical place might be the boost you need to move into a different, newer, fresher mental/emotion place. If a move is not possible, start with something like a new outfit or new haircut or something. Bottom line, I think what you need most right now is something--anything--new. Your vision is too small and you need to see past the four wall in which you currently find yourself. Good luck
posted by GeniPalm at 11:24 AM on November 11, 2009

also, for what it's worth, i'm about 200lbs overweight and just shy of 44 and i've got a pretty good life. so, there's still a possibility of life while fat. fat doesn't have to make you miserable; it just makes you fat.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:14 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Everyone here has been very, very helpful. But i've been in the horrible black depression pit before, and I got dragged out through hard work, good drugs, good therapists, good friends, and time, and let me tell you the most valuable lesson I learned:

Depression lies.

Depression lies to you all the time. Depression lies and tells you you're wasting your life. Depression lies and tells you that your weight makes you unloveable, or that you're too screwed up to be a good friend, or that you're a worthless shell of a human being. The worst lie that depression tells, though, is that it's your fault, that maybe in other people depression is a serious mental illness but in you it's a character flaw, that if you just weren't so goddamn lazy you could get yourself to therapy and into a workout routine and get better.

You are critically, urgently, possibly even emergently ill. If you are too ill to seek therapy through conventional channels -- and if you are having a hard time making it to your therapy, then you might well be -- I have had really, really good results from going to a local emergency room for help. Take a book and a sandwich; you're going to be there a while because you're pretty low-acuity compared to a stroke or a car accident victim, though you can minimize that by going at 7 AM on a weekday. But I was positively amazed at the sensitive, efficient, caring response I got from going to the ER for a psych evaluation, and how effectively they hooked me up with the appropriate treatment options. If your illness is preventing you from seeking treatment for that illness, the emergency room is an appropriate place to go.

DEPRESSION LIES. Cross-stitch it onto a pillow if you have to, but remember that it lies, and lies, and lies, and lies.
posted by KathrynT at 1:20 PM on November 11, 2009 [24 favorites]

Nthing that it could be ADD. Bring up that possibility at your next appointment with your psychiatrist and see if you can try Adderall for a while. It could help you focus on getting things done, perk up your mood, AND help you lose weight.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:51 PM on November 11, 2009

The first step was writing this post. You've already started; keep going.
posted by prior at 11:13 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

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