school + work = depression?
February 17, 2010 6:04 PM   Subscribe

YANAD filter, version: depression 2.0. I am starting to see some of my depression symptoms return after a few years of being med-free. There are several factors involved and both my work and my school is being affected. How can I know what factors are causing what symptoms so I can fix this?

This is my second quarter back in school after five years of being absent. I work full-time in retail, so the hours suck and I often find myself going 13 hour days between work and school. Often times, I am not able to do my school work after/before work because I am so tired from the previous day. I have had major problems with motivation and focus this quarter and have all but stopped attending at least one of my classes. I know that the weather (record snowfalls!) has had a big impact on my mood, but I am not sure to what extent that it has caused some of my depression to return. Other things that could be affecting it: I recently started back on birth control and I am trying to quit smoking (down to 1-2 a day).

Symptoms I have noticed: lack of motivation, overall depression, negative thoughts about myself, panic attack-like symptoms (though not full blown), overall unhappiness with most aspects of my life, headaches almost every day, etc.

When I was in school five years ago, I had similar symptoms and eventually withdrew because of it. I couldn't bring myself to attend class or do school work. This is the place I am in now. Am I just not able to do both work and school? Is it the birth control/smoking/weather that is also affecting it? How can I get my motivation back so that I can make the best of what's left of the quarter?

I have doctors appointments lined up, but I wanted real people advice about similar situations they have been in.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As someone in a very similar position (return of symptoms after a couple of years med-free), my feeling is that you probably won't be able to identify single factors that are causing the symptoms. It is probably a mixture of various situations as well as some underlying chemistry/psychology.

My advice, would be to avoid getting down about yourself due to the problems associated with the symptoms. You are taking some good steps, but just try to fit in more of the good things (whatever they are for you): exercising, spending time with friends, reading, etc.

You may not be able to make any big changes before the quarter is over, but just keep taking those small steps. I've tried repeatedly to address the big things and it has just ended up making me feel even more overwhelmed and stressed out. Small goals, with a few achievements is all that I'm looking for until things these small changes add up to big ones.

I wouldn't make any big decisions right now. If you can, quit the job and focus on school. If not, don't worry too much about school and just keep up with the job. School will still be there when you are in a better mental state.

Quitting smoking will make you feel better in the long run. There are lots of birth control options out there. If you feel like it matters--switch.
posted by imposster at 7:04 PM on February 17, 2010

Also, I've found that looking at things in terms of "What is making me feel this way?" can just help line up excuses for the failures I find with myself. Take control of your feelings (or at least ownership--since your feelings are probably really hard to control right now.)
posted by imposster at 7:08 PM on February 17, 2010

Bear in mind, quitting smoking will mess with your head a bit more then most people think, even going from x amount a day to x/5 amount a day. I know it sounds cliche, and you're already terribly busy, but try going for a quick jog (15-20 mins) or hitting the school gym for a half hour. It'll help with the smoking, and the little endorphin rush you get after a good workout might help a bit as well.

Also, working retail is very hard on the nerves. A bad day in retail and you might just rage-quit your job, just because the days can be that bad. If you can, make sure you get a least 2 days off in a row, once a week just to clear your head.
posted by irishcoffee at 10:01 PM on February 17, 2010

Agggh, birth control pills!! I personally cannot take them anymore; they were a major component of depression for me. Depression is listed as a side effect in the patient info sheets for some of the medicines. Please get this aspect of it checked out with your doctor. If you are truly attached to staying on the pill, I believe there are a couple of lower-dosage pills that are supposedly gentler on the mood. But the pill can have a major effect here.

Book recommendation that was mentioned in a similar AskMe thread: Get It Done When You're Depressed.

Talk to the dean/assistant dean/someone in your school department, if you haven't already. It's good for them to know what's going on, and they may well be able to help.

Good luck -- maybe it sounds silly coming from an internet stranger, but I am proud of you for going back to school, and for looking out for yourself.
posted by oldtimey at 10:46 PM on February 17, 2010

Sounds like one big whopper of a combination. You'll want to look at addressing all of the things you've mentioned.

Reducing smoking and starting school, on top of working full time? You've put too much on your plate. Stress is a killer. It's not a failure to ease up on one or more of these things. Start small, with realistic expectations. Build up slowly. Think of it as exercise. Do only what you can do relatively easily, making it into a habit, and then add gradually.

If you know that weather affects your mood, consider taking Vitamin D supplements or exposing yourself to full-spectrum light every morning.

Get regular sleep. Get regular meals. Find time to do things you enjoy. Connect with friends and family who are supportive/fun. I'd suggest exercise (it's a fantastic anti-depressant and energy giver), but starting a regular regimen is another big thing to add to your plate if you're not already doing it.

What's your biggest and most basic priority? Start there. It's okay if you're not doing all the rest yet, because you'll work up to it. It's okay if it's "just" taking care of yourself, because everything builds on top of that.
posted by moira at 10:31 AM on February 18, 2010

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