Please don't say skydiving
January 19, 2010 3:55 PM   Subscribe

I need to make a decision to stop marking time and, if you will forgive the unforgivable cliché, start living. I think it might help to have some kind of ceremony or event to make this concrete, to establish a break point in my life. It's important that I realise what it means to intend to be alive in five years' time. But I can't think of anything appropriate.

Next week it's my twenty-sixth birthday, and it seems that I've spent half my life slowly giving up on it. I really need to break out of this cycle where I drag through things, not making too much of a scene and trying terribly hard not to engage with the fact that I'm alive, while occasionally getting dragged under by it and having a quiet crisis or two. A friend is going to take me to the doctor to ask about antidepressants, but I'm under no illusions that that will change anything, and I've already seen three therapists for a total of three years, which kept me in place but didn't change anything. I think I need to make a choice, and to really believe that I've made it, that I'm going to be in the world.

For some reason I believe in ceremonies. I think I could do with something big to mark this choice and make it real. The only things I can think of seem a bit counterproductive, like giving away every single one of my possessions, or forcing myself to fight my way back from drowning in a cold river. Does anyone have any ideas for something with a more positive slant, that still doesn't feel tame?
posted by Acheman to Human Relations (55 answers total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
 
Travel. The kind with a pack on your back. Not quite "fighting back from drowning" but you can learn alot about yourself as you navigate the various situations you will find yourself in.
posted by cabingirl at 4:02 PM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Tattoo?

Make a public goal tracker?

Start a new project?

Cut all your hair off? (or conversely, start growing it out)

Plant a tree?

Adopt a pet?

Break a bottle of champagne on your car, apartment, tree?
posted by shownomercy at 4:03 PM on January 19, 2010


Oops, hit the button too soon. I meant to say, I know "travel" is not a ceremony but it can serve as a point in time for future reference. When I look back on my first such trip, I think of the year it happened, not necessarily the month or day.
posted by cabingirl at 4:04 PM on January 19, 2010


The only things I can think of seem a bit counterproductive, like giving away every single one of my possessions, or forcing myself to fight my way back from drowning in a cold river.

You should do neither of those things. The ritual or act that you're looking for is going to a doctor to ask about anti-depressants. They've changed many people's lives. That's the thing that marks your taking control.

Also, three therapists in three years is -- get this -- not that many. I know, it's horrible. People go through therapists and it's like looking for a right pair of shoes without ever seeing them in advance or asking for your own size. So don't throw a whole lot of big bold meaning onto that, okay?

Meds first, and second thing -- instead of looking for endings (getting rid of things), add something. Sign up for a triathalon, ballroom dancing, commit to going out to dinner with a friend every Thursday, start a book group, invite friends over for the superbowl, go over to the blue and figure out how to make the perfect friend chicken. In short, start something.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:05 PM on January 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


Fried chicken. It's fried chicken. If you want to make a friend of a chicken, that's entirely your business.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:06 PM on January 19, 2010 [22 favorites]


Walk out to the Kilauea lava flows. It's challenging, but accessible, walking back in pitch darkness over incredibly rugged terrain. You'll see the earth being created, man, and if that's not an appropriate ceremony, I don't know what is. A bit pricey, though. I did it for my 40th birthday, and it was life changing.
posted by MrMoonPie at 4:07 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Un-tame:
Volunteer on an oncology ward or at a hospice. You will come face to face with mortality. With sad quiet regret and bravery beyond anything you have likely experienced. You will see how precious life is, and realize the tragedy of it slowly sifting away through your fingers unappreciated.

And there is nothing like the ceremony of quiet death to affirm the thoughtful exuberance of life.
posted by nickjadlowe at 4:07 PM on January 19, 2010


Shave your head and go out into the wilderness on a solo camping trip, during which you should keep a journal and define some personal goals for the coming years - not goals of material achievement, but goals of personal development.
posted by The World Famous at 4:12 PM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I used to believe in ceremonies too. I've been skydiving. I've gotten tattoos. I've travelled on my own. I've hiked up a mountain. I've moved to three different states.

You know what? None of those things really made a difference beyond a fleeting awakening. You must consciously choose every day to be awake. You are already in the world, whether you feel it or not, and one event is not going to lift the veil that's over your eyes. It takes constant awareness for every single one of us.

I am not trying to crush your dreams or whatever. You SHOULD travel. Everyone should. You should take risks and seek adventure. Give away all the crap you don't need if you want to. But I think it's dangerous to think that one event will be "it" and then your malaise will be over. It will return, again and again, until you make friends with it and know that it's part of you, part of everyone, and it's nothing to fear. Then you can put it aside each morning and really live, awakened.
posted by desjardins at 4:29 PM on January 19, 2010 [88 favorites]


Buy a coffin. Have a party: invite your friends over, with stuff they need to purge from their lives. Fill up the coffin with stuff and set it on fire. Scoop the ashes into little vials, to give back to party guests.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:29 PM on January 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I need to make a decision to stop marking time [...] I think it might help to have some kind of ceremony or event to make this concrete

You do realize the inherent contradiction here, right?

No ceremony. No event. Nothing to mark the occasion save simply deciding and then doing.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:31 PM on January 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


1. Buy a blank journal and a pen you like. Make opening the journal and your first entry a formal event for yourself . Begin a chronicle of your new stage of life.

2. Buy yourself a symbolic piece of jewelry like a pendant that you can take a look at now and then and wear all the time. Maybe don it just before the journal entry.

I believe in marking important moments too . . .
posted by bearwife at 4:32 PM on January 19, 2010


Bake a cake, it's what I do.

Too tame?

Here's the deal, I used to be one for big ceremonies too, but I think they can be counterproductive. You can get addicted to that "this is it, I'm going to make a change" feeling. It's counterproductive because you're telling yourself that you need to make some big production in order to affect some change. But what you want is to train yourself to let the decision to make a change be all you need to actually implement the change -- no ceremony is required. (if that makes any sense)

This is just my experience with things, of course, and it might not resonate with you at all.

Either way, good luck.
posted by twinight at 4:41 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I believe that ceremonies have power to change people, but I also think a big part of that power involves community. Why is a bar mitzvah or 21st birthday or whatever such a milestone? You are declaring to everyone (the community, your friends, whatever) that you have reached a new era of your life. It's not just a personal thing. If you involve others, they might treat you a little differently, they might reinforce your transformation.

Are there people in your life who you could invite out to a sort of 'first-day-of-the-rest-of-my-life' bar night (or picnic, whatever floats your boat)? Just explain that you want to have a little ceremony to celebrate your decision to live life anew. Pop a bottle of champagne or something. "To living life!" If you don't have friends that would be down with this (hey I have weird friends), you could do it with your parents or buy a round for a bar or have a mefi meetup or anything, really.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:41 PM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think travel, too.

Pick something that isn't too easy for you (ie. don't just go and hang around on a Thai beach). Maybe something like the pilgrim's walk along the Camino de Santiago (or some of it), or hike hut to hut in the White Mountains. Or perhaps a long train trip (if you are likely to actually drop dead when forced to walk for any distance), like the Transiberian Railway. Or sail across an ocean (I did this with no sailing experience and as someone who suffers perpetually from seasickness. Obviously with other people who DID know how to sail. But it was a definite 'out there and living' experience.).

A good trip gets you away from the daily grind and gives you time to think, during which you can think about what you are going to do to keep living, rather than stagnating. It will also give you a strong memory of a time when you did get out there in the world and live, perhaps of use when you are back in the more mundane, reminding you that you can make this change.
posted by AnnaRat at 5:00 PM on January 19, 2010


I think I need to do something a bit more painful or terrifying than most people here have suggested. Something to match the magnitude of this terrible, corrosive despair, but which won't seriously endanger me or be too straightforward a translation of the whole suicide, y'know, thing. I suppose the thing is that I feel that I need to stop being so cautious, but am finding it a little difficult to calibrate my recklessness. Yesterday I held a lighted match to my hand, to see how far I could overcome the physical aversion, which I acknowledge was probably pretty dumb.
posted by Acheman at 5:08 PM on January 19, 2010


showbiz_liz took my suggestion.
posted by ropeladder at 5:09 PM on January 19, 2010


So it's pain you want? Ironman, then?
posted by The World Famous at 5:18 PM on January 19, 2010


What does it mean to you to "be alive"?

I ride motorcycles, and fly airplanes, and ride bicycles, and ... I've had many narrow scrapes doing all that (maybe something like "fighting back from drowning in a cold river") but I wouldn't say that that's what makes me feel I'm living my life and not just marking time.

I used to get a vague sense of disquiet about my life, about what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to follow a certain career path to riches and success (programmer -> manager -> executive). When I became a manager I had my "awakening" -- I realized that I hated management, and what I really liked was doing things and making stuff. I went back to writing code, and just do the things that I want to do. I want to write code and make things. So for me it was just "do the stuff that I like to do (and not what someone else thinks I should)". Sounds trivial and dumb, but that's what it means to me.

Lots of good advice in this thread. I'll also add a supporting vote for "maybe you haven't found the right therapist for you".
posted by phliar at 5:18 PM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Something to match the magnitude of this terrible, corrosive despair

Yesterday I held a lighted match to my hand

OK, if you're in that state of mind, I can only suggest going back to therapy. I understand that you don't think you're actively suicidal, but I'm concerned you're going to do something dangerous. As someone said above, 3 therapists in 3 years is really not that much. You need to try again. Drastic action is not going to cure your despair.
posted by desjardins at 5:18 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, I think a tatoo is also a great idea. A big one, possibly.
posted by Rocket26 at 5:29 PM on January 19, 2010


Something to match the magnitude of this terrible, corrosive despair

The best answer to "terrible, corrosive despair" is getting help, not getting a tattoo. Get the tattoo to celebrate when you're feeling better.

I mean, what you're saying is like "I have this horrible suppurating sore on my leg. Should I run a marathon with it?" The answer is "No, see a doctor. Then when you're healed, enjoy the marathon."
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:33 PM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I understand that you don't think you're actively suicidal
I'm not sure I'd go that far; but I don't think that anything will be served by that being the direct topic of conversation here.

posted by Acheman at 5:56 PM on January 19, 2010


I'm not sure I'd go that far; but I don't think that anything will be served by that being the direct topic of conversation here.

If you are suicidal, the only ritual you need to do is to make a pact with yourself to get help, and then do whatever you can to get the help you need. (Or kill yourself, if that's your choice, but you said that you have a commitment to living so I assume that isn't your choice.)

"What if I threw myself into a frozen river as a way of symbolizing my desire to live?" is your brain trying to kill you, not an interesting idea for celebrating your commitment to life.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:07 PM on January 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I really liked the idea of a cake... might take advantage of that one myself sometime. But, I will tell you a couple of things that helped me change my life pretty dramatically:

Firstly, I changed around my room at home. I put up some shelving near the ceiling (which provides great, unobtrusive storage space. I put all my small to medium sized objects in shoe-organizers that I hang on the walls. Things changed for me when I got my room in manageable order.

Starting a daily program of exercise with a group of people - this is a really wonderful way to start each day. It also builds a lot of camaraderie and lasting friendships. You could do this through a gym or even through a local roadrunners club.
posted by verapamil at 6:21 PM on January 19, 2010


As someone how fairly significantly changed my life this year, and wants to do the same next year, this is what I'm considering. Last year I proved that baby steps work much better for me than trying to change everything at once, so this year, I'm considerng taking this quote literally:

Do one thing every day that scares you. Eleanor Roosevelt

So, I would suggest inviting friends and family round to your house for dinner, and make an announcement that you want to continuously push yourself out of your comfort zone for a year. And ask for help. Asking for help will probably fulfill the scary thing for that day.
posted by kjs4 at 6:43 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I need to make a choice, and to really believe that I've made it, that I'm going to be in the world.
This is sort of what I've been trying to do by committing to future events with people. If I tell my family I'm going to be home for Christmas, then that's something I've decided I will do - so obviously I'm planning to still be around at Christmas time. I've also registered to run a half marathon in June with a friend. If you can find someone who would sign up for that kind of event with you, that has a lot of the ceremonial aspects: everybody gets together with a single plan, you finish with people cheering you on, you get a token of acheivement (shirt, certificate, medal, etc). And you get used to thinking of things you will do in the future (sort of Fake it till you Make it stuff).

I think I need to do something a bit more painful or terrifying than most people here have suggested.
No, I don't think you do. You sound like you're looking for some kind of suggestion like self-harm to match and distract/replace the feelings in your head. It might be worth looking up some of the suggestions on ways to get out of self-harm habits, even if you haven't actually started doing it much. Beginning this kind of thing isn't really a commitment to 'getting better' or 'living'.
posted by jacalata at 7:11 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you need to pick a goal/something to change BEFORE you come up with a "bury the hatchet" ceremony or whatever. You need to know where to go before you throw out who you are with no clue of what to replace it with.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:27 PM on January 19, 2010


Go on a silent meditation retreat.
It's not "extreme" like jumping through a hoop of fire
or having a tiger tattooed on your palm. It's a bit different
kind of extreme and possibly more terrifying and painful.
posted by jade east at 7:50 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, I've often found it helpful when I start new journals to begin by writing a little bit about what kind of life I want to be living by the time it's done, and what way I'm living that already fit the bill. Sometimes I'm so busy focusing on what I am not doing, that I almost ignore what is. I'm sometimes surprised - I wanted to live part of my life in San Francisco, and there are times even during crappy days that I look at the bay bridge and the fog, and I think, Hot Damn. I wanted to learn Spanish and German, and I have - poorly, but I have. I sort of fail to notice that I actually am living my life with intention, if that makes sense.

To counteract that, in addition to my journal, I use a tracking program on my ipod touch. On it, I have a number of things i think are meaningful to me, from small things like trying to get 8 hours or sleep, to contacting my parents by email two to three times a week, to taking vitamins, to letting my husband know I love him. So, I can track back a week - when I've done something, it's a heart, and if I missed a day, it's a flower. I look back over the week and it's all hearts and flowers. I like that.

The combo means I can write in my journal that I want to be a person who makes her parents part of her life (which is sometimes kind of hard for me) , and then look back over the month and see that I did just that at least 12 times. I find during dark times that I don't have a clear bead on the world and how I am living in it. These daily ceremonies (journaling, tracking) for me are important right now - they are data to counteract unreasonable or inaccurate expectations in my head, like: (Aggghhhh, I NEVER call my parents! I am a HORRIBLE Daughter....oh...wait....no...look, I didn't call them at all this week, but over the last month, I've emailed them 6 times. That's kind of nice. That's important to me. I actually AM living life in a way that aligns with my values. How Sweet!)

So perhaps rather than one big ceremony, you could find some small, regular ritual that helps you identify/remember what it means for you to live a life that is meaningful to you - and shows you that you are doing it?
posted by anitanita at 8:09 PM on January 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think I need to do something a bit more painful or terrifying...

[I] am finding it a little difficult to calibrate my recklessness...

Yesterday I held a lighted match to my hand, to see how far I could overcome the physical aversion...


Um, you're not better. It's great that you've finally reached the conclusion that you want to get better, but you're not there yet. There is no 'new life' to celebrate right now, because you're still thinking like a person who is still unwell.

You believe you need to inflict pain on yourself in order to start living your life. You can't tell what's reckless and what's not. That's not healthy thinking. The great ceremonial step you need to take is to find a new therapist and commit to working with them, for as long as it takes.
posted by embrangled at 11:54 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Also, going into the wilderness alone when you're still mentally or emotionally off-kilter is a really bad idea. Please don't listen to the people who are suggesting it.)
posted by embrangled at 11:55 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, I withdraw my suggestion, I don't think it would be the right thing for you at this time.
posted by AnnaRat at 12:02 AM on January 20, 2010


Clean. Clean everything you own. Sweep, dust, wash walls. De-clutter. Get all the things out of your life that you don't want in it - dust bunnies, old paper, grime. Spend a week cleaning out your life of all your detritus. Get up every morning and work eight hours a day cleaning. Spend two more walking and thinking. Spend two cooking and eating good food. Vegetables and healthy proteins. By the end of the week, you'll be thinking clearly. It's not a short ritual, but it takes time to move things out of your life.

Then live.

The most painful, terrifying thing in the world is to realize that you get to make all the decisions in your life. You get to be whoever you want! Anything you want - you can make it happen. The terrifying thing is getting up every morning. You want someone to recommend suspension? That's easy. The endorphins erase any pain or doubt about everything. Getting up and making tea every morning and looking for something you think is beautiful? That's tough. It's painful and hard, but it's worth it. Pain doesn't make the past go away.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:03 AM on January 20, 2010 [83 favorites]


I think I need to do something a bit more painful or terrifying than most people here have suggested. Something to match the magnitude of this terrible, corrosive despair, but which won't seriously endanger me or be too straightforward a translation of the whole suicide, y'know, thing. I suppose the thing is that I feel that I need to stop being so cautious, but am finding it a little difficult to calibrate my recklessness. Yesterday I held a lighted match to my hand, to see how far I could overcome the physical aversion, which I acknowledge was probably pretty dumb.

I understand that this is not a derail you want to pursue, but this combined with some of your suggestions from the original post (swimming back from the icy river) suggest very serious depression. Depression isn't sobbing all day. Very severe depression can be described as feeling dead inside, and the things you seem to be gravitating to have qualities that shock you into feeling something.

I think you should entertain -- just entertain the idea -- that you might not be thinking 100% straight, in the way that when you have the flu it's not a good time to analyze your health. Some of the things you're describing, as others have mentioned, are big red flags of non-health, not health. I think because you're deeply fed up with your situation (which is frankly, great, and about the best thing you could be saying) but you're mistaking that internal decision with actually getting there -- to happiness, which is that fuller engagement in your life you're hoping for.

You are saying some things that are cause for concern, and I ask you to please consider the possibility that those of us who are suggesting a more measured response to your feelings (no dramatic action, keep that doctor's appointment, try another therapist) might be right.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:02 AM on January 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think I need to do something a bit more painful or terrifying than most people here have suggested.

Again, no.

Pain + terror are not going to lead to some alchemy of happiness.

This is like saying that if mix bleach and hairspray you can make fudge.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:06 AM on January 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


I realize this route is not appealing to many, but it blows my mind that in addition to the big woo-ha of baptism, the Church offers confession, absolution and communion as a way of putting the past behind you and starting over afresh every frickin' day. I'm not recommending you go get yourself baptized if that's not for you, but it's worth reflecting that a huge, once-in-a-lifetime fresh start you can't live up to may ultimately be less useful than some lesser ritual that offers you a fresh start every day.
posted by stuck on an island at 5:01 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I swore I'd never begin a sentence with this phrase, but here goes:

When I was your age, I felt exactly like you. I'd lay in my bed and pray I'd die in my sleep. I was doing self-destructive things that caused me pain, but I couldn't stop doing them. Eventually I just felt numb. I'd go through days where nothing at all seemed real. I didn't see the point in planning for the future, because there didn't seem like there was going to be one.

Ten years later, I'm extremely happily married to this amazing guy, I have my master's degree, and my life is pretty great. I don't really know how this happened - it definitely wasn't some sudden event. It was a series of conscious decisions - therapy, definitely, but also forcing myself to do the things that normal people do. I got a job. I moved into my own apartment. I lived by the lake, so I'd take walks in the park. I got a cat. I met friends once a week for dinner. I went to Europe. I put a personal ad online, and that's how I met my husband.

I never, never ever thought any of this would be possible at 25. Happiness was for other people who weren't irrevocably fucked up like I was. My life today isn't all unicorns shitting rainbows, but it is a million times removed from what it was, and most importantly, I know that happiness is possible, even for me.

I am not any kind of special snowflake, so I can say with 110% certainty that happiness is possible for you too.
posted by desjardins at 6:37 AM on January 20, 2010 [20 favorites]


What about joy, comfort, ecstasy, indulgence? Why aren't those the extreme emotions you are seeking? I agree with others that this tendency to seek pain, shock, danger, etc., is a warning sign and not a path you should follow.

Get an amazing massage. Nothing makes you feel more alive and at home in your body.

Run a marathon. Lift weights. See what your body can accomplish.

Get the best, most comfy, most indulgent set of sheets and blankets you can imagine, so your bed is a luxurious refuge.

Play with puppies and kittens. There's something about them that makes us grin and laugh and swoon.
posted by heatherann at 6:44 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Get your legs waxed. Actually, do what those polar bear swimmer people do in winter and go swimming in chilly water. BRRRR!

If I wanted to do something painful, I would give all my savings away. You can send me a MeMail for my address (cashier's check preferred).

I wouldn't do a tattoo. You will get old. It will look gross.
posted by anniecat at 9:08 AM on January 20, 2010


I really like stoneweaver's answer. The realization that I was in control of my life was empowering. I do what I want when I want, because I want to, and I don't feel the odd compulsion to live by some other jerk's rules. This might take some therapy and it will be a painful adjustment, but the rewards of empowerment are all kinds of worth it.

Work to improve your life and learn to live with no excuses.

(Alternately, if you're looking for a thrill that won't leave you mangled or comatose, take a road trip to The City Museum in St. Louis. It's an old shoe factory that was transformed into an adult's Chuck E. Cheese on steroids.

There are miles of tubes & tunnels made of recycled rebar, slides, things to climb through, obstacles to clamber over, and a myriad of other ways to exert yourself to the point of giddy exhaustion. The website looks underwhelming, but trust me when I say it's a blast.

Did I mention that it has a 7-story circular slide? It's a 23-second ride that's fast enough to be exhilerating but not enough to kick-start my "oh crap I'm falling" reflex. I giggled the whole way down, climbed back to the top, and giggled all the way down once again.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 10:34 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, considering your apparent mental and emotional state, going out into the wilderness alone might not be a great idea. You need professional help - more than you're getting.
posted by The World Famous at 11:10 AM on January 20, 2010


Hey, I turned 26 last year! And last year, like you, I was feeling some terrible, corrosive despair, despite that fact that my life was going pretty well.

So I did something about it, something that really has been a turning point in my life. It was terrifying. It was painful. It was the most difficult thing I'd done in years. Can you guess what it was?

I called my doctor's office and said "I'd like to talk to someone about depression." Just that. And then I followed through with everything they told me to do - I showed up to appointments, I started medication and when it didn't do much, I said so after a few weeks and we adjusted the dosage.

I was really scared to take that first step - it felt like giving up on myself, admitting I couldn't change myself without help. It seemed impossible that anything would be different. When they took my blood pressure reading at the doctor's office, it was sky high because I was so terrified. In retrospect, that seems pretty silly, but it was definitely how I felt. I had a lot of irrational fears about that doctor's visit - I was afraid they wouldn't take me seriously, afraid they'd send me to therapists who would force me to verbalize all the darkness I felt in my heart. I was afraid they would send me away with nothing. But what I feared the most was that nothing could change the despair I felt.

A year later, I look back on that decision to get help as the best thing I could have done for myself. I feel so much better.

Please get the help you need. And don't do anything self-destructive.
posted by beandip at 11:15 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ok, so I think it's fair that I disclose what happened next, particularly for the benefit of anyone who might be looking back at this question because it resonates with them on some level. I went to the doctor (which was horrible, because I hate talking about interior states with strangers) and the doctor gave me some tablets, and then I went to the doctor some more and kept taking the tablets... and somehow my life is completely different now, far more different than I'd envisaged it being. I feel as if someone took away the stone on my back.

The first thing I noticed was that I could do things, little everyday things, like washing up, without them feeling terribly hard and complicated. I started doing my laundry regularly and ironing my shirts and changing my sheets. When I read stoneweaver's comment at first, it filled me with despair, because I knew I couldn't spend all day cleaning - I'd do half an hour, then lie down and cover my face for a bit, then do another half hour, and so on - it was exhausting. But a few weeks in (I was given one of the faster-acting concoctions) I took a week off work and completely re-organised my room, reshelved my books, even got some drawers from Ikea and a cheap rug. I hoovered and dusted, and somehow I've kept it up. I look about me now, and my environment is pleasant. All this seems doable.

The next thing that happened was that I started to be able to read again. One of the worst things that happened over the last five years or so, gradually, was that the ability to read drifted slowly away from me; I couldn't concentrate very well or very consistently. It was a struggle and sometimes I worked around it, and sometimes I didn't do it at all. But then I started to pick up books and keep them up, to follow things, to enjoy them. It's a little thing, but it's very important to me.

Then something else happened, something that's still happening, I suppose: the world started to open out. I started to get used to walking around without this hole in my chest, without feeling that everything was draining away from me as I moved, and so I began to think about the future with a sense of agency, rather than as something I curled away from instinctively. Just as now I look at my bookshelves and am filled with excitement rather than regret and self-reproach, I'm looking at a whole lot of other things in the same changed light. I'm making plans. I'm not living hand-to-mouth. I've been surprised, really, how much time there is in the day: it's like being a child again, when the days go on for ever and there are so many different things to do in them.

It's jarring, really, and it's made me wonder all kinds of things about my life, and made me re-evaluate a great many experiences I've had, a great many narratives. I still don't completely know how to interpret this. And so much of it is very much a work in progress; I'm still going back to the doctor, and I have a slooow NHS referral to a trick-cyclist. But I guess the answer to my question, as so many people here pointed out - and I want to thank all of the commenters for their kindness and forebearance - wasn't exactly where I was looking for it.
posted by Acheman at 3:15 PM on March 19, 2010 [321 favorites]


That's fantastic and thanks so much for the update.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:41 PM on March 19, 2010


I am so, so happy for you and I wish you continued happiness and peace. Your update is extremely important to those who may read this question down the road, because it can give them a tangible taste of hope. Best wishes to you.
posted by desjardins at 8:35 PM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Thank you for updating. You give hope to people who read this question in the future. Best wishes.
posted by VickyR at 7:12 AM on March 20, 2010


(Wait, the NHS gives out unicycle lessons when you're depressed? Hell yeah! This socialized medicine thing is so awesome! I'm gonna——

Oh. That's not what that means? Oh well. Glad you're feeling better, and thanks for sharing the good news.)

posted by nebulawindphone at 9:45 AM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Would you mind if I asked what kind of medicine they gave you?
posted by lazaruslong at 11:49 AM on March 20, 2010


A bit late to the show, but since cleaning was mentioned, flylady is a suprisingly good site for lifting your mood just by getting things done - a kind of cognitive & behavioural therapy dressed up as a bunch of housekeeping tips!

Your very first BabyStep is to go shine your sink. Dont listen to those voices that tell you that it not going to help your messy house. This is exactly where I started and this little habit has changed my life! Take this BabyStep in faith and go do it. Here are the directions for shining your kitchen sink.

Day 1 - Go Shine your Sink.

After you do this; you will keep it shiny by drying it out after each time you use it and making sure when you go to bed that it is shining so it will make you smile in the morning. This is how I get to hug you each day! That shiny sink is a reflection of the love that you have for yourself.

posted by UbuRoivas at 2:14 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


would've helped if i included the link.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:22 PM on March 20, 2010


Congratulations on your recovery!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:06 PM on March 20, 2010


Oh man, I'm so glad to hear you are better!!!! This is why all those people who claim that antidepressants are all placebo or should be withheld because depression is "telling you something" should jump in a lake. These very specific changes-- that lifting of the stone, that removal of the sense of dread, that opening up, that newfound ability to be able to do stuff without it being a massive effort-- are all seen in people when the meds work and tend to be described in very similar terms.

If that's not a specific pharmacological action, then I don't know what is. And if the experience of life completely sucking and everything being an effort is "useful," I'd like to know what it's useful for. Those who argue that it's helpful are free to never take the drugs when they have that experience. Those who haven't had that experience should not tell those of us who have what we should or shouldn't do about it.
posted by Maias at 4:34 PM on March 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


Great news. Well done. May your eyes continue to open and your vistas spread further out than could have ever imagined. And don't forget that YOU did this. YOU asked for help, YOU weighed the choices and YOU accepted advice and support and it worked! So now you know you can trust yourself.

And it is good to hear your HEART in this.

Well done. Enjoy.
posted by salishsea at 8:53 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Acheman, you've described my experience (10 years ago) perfectly. Your comment is now required reading for any moron I hear talking about 'happy pills.'
posted by Turtles all the way down at 4:56 AM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


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