Will Work For Happiness
May 24, 2010 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Help me not let depression make my life stand still? Or worse?


Last weekend, after a month of excuses, came to the fullness of the realization that I’m depressed. Hooray!

Actually, this is a good thing. Depression is a Thing I Can Deal With, which means I can take action, versus sitting around wondering what is wrong with me, and making excuses.

I am on meds and have started therapy, so am on the slow ascent out of the darkness. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, because I know working my way out will take time. Figuring out and dealing with the underlying issues isn’t something that happens overnight.

However, I can’t afford to let myself roll around in this shit. My job is in the creative industry, therefore, my very livelihood depends on my clear, happy, quick mind. (Which I obviously don’t have right now.)

I also somewhat recently started dating a new guy, who I believe is very important. Possibly the type of partner I’ve always wanted. Obviously, I don’t want to hide this from him, because as I’ve stated, I want him to be a part of my life. He’s been great so far: supportive, inquisitive, and full of hugs. But I also know how taxing it is to be with a person who can’t be bothered to shower regularly, and barely drags themself out of bed.

Here’s where I could use your help: I need short-term depression hacks that will help me cope and keep my life on an even keel. I am dealing with the long-term issues, but I really don’t want to get fired or lose my boyfriend because I’m moping around all the time.

Specific questions:

1.) How do you get through the day at a high thinking and functioning level at work, when you can barely make a decision about what kind of dinner you’d like?

2.) Where is the fine line with sharing your issues with others? (Specifically your SO.) How do you let them in, without freaking them out? How much is enough?

Caveats: Yes, I will be talking about this with my therapist. But I also wanted to see if there are any home-grown coping mechanisms out there. I've also read a bunch of other related threads, and some are helpful. But none really speak to "help me fix this now!!" type questions.

Throwaway: throwaway.sad@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
1. Focus on anything you can. I've mentioned before, but what kept me going through my first two awful years of college was thinking, "Ooh, there's chili at Commons tonight!"

If you need to accomplish something and find it too hard to get Actual Tasks done because you have to do other things first (things requiring too much thought or energy), settle for accomplishing anything. That includes cleaning your desk down to wiping, cleaning out the fridge, offering to go on menial errands, whatever. That can give you a little boost to help motivate you and keep you on track as part of the group.

If you can throw yourself into your work, good. Maybe there are some big tasks that might not require an organized brain but really need to be done -- entering names into a database, or sorting old files. Those can help.

Set deadlines and... hmmmm.... maybe "watermarks" is a good term for it. Buoys, even. "I only have to get to Friday, and then I can rest over the weekend." "There's a staff meeting on Wednesday, and I'm not on the hook for that and can leave early afterwards. Okay, just get to Wednesday."

One good self-medicating thing for me is to go on a shopping spree at my natural foods co-op. I buy slightly frivolous things like face masks, fresh produce I wouldn't normally get, products I've never tried, all that. It's cheaper than the mall, it helps you feed yourself (without getting bogged down in "oh, gee, I'd have to wash a pot...") and it gives you healthy, natural things that can help you feel better from the inside out. Clean, "pure" things like juices, fruits and sushi always make me feel like I'm doing good, orderly things for my body instead of just gorging on heavy comfort food.

2. It really depends on your partner. Some people can handle a brain dump on the first date; others who should know you after a year can't handle what they perceive as an ongoing problem with The Crazy.

I've had partners on both ends of the spectrum. I think the important thing is to be very clear that you DO know that you're depressed and that certain actions are from your illness, not something your partner did or can control/help with. Most importantly, your partner needs to know that you are doing everything you can to get out of this.

If you have times when you're more lucid/comfortable, maybe you can discuss some of your coping mechanisms and downfalls. "Sometimes I really need time to myself. It's not you, okay?" "When I'm really depressed, I have a hard time making decisions. Could you help me make some simple ones, like what's for dinner, and gently push me to make some others? Don't give me a bunch of choices; just say, 'Red shirt of blue shirt?' and keep it simple."

I'm really glad that you can see the light here; good for you for getting some help! Feel free to MeMail me if you'd like advice or a cheerleader.
posted by Madamina at 2:11 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

First, I doubt that you need to be happy to be creative. Some of the most creative people in history were rather depressed people. This does not mean you should stay depressed but I don't think you need to be happy to be creative.

Second, there are no quick solutions to a depression. If there were, depression would not be a problem for millions of people. It will take time and often changes are so slow that you don't even recognize them yourself. I know it is frustrating but right now you will probably not be able to "get through the day a high thinking and functioning level at work". Start with small goals. Dare to be average or even below. This is not the time to put high demands on yourself.

Having said this, some useful approaches to various problems associated with depression can be found in David Burn's Feeling Good. For me the Daily Mood Log and the Anti-Procrastination Sheet were/are especially helpful.

Third, there is no general law on how much you should tell your SO about your depression. I tell my girlfriend nearly everything but I also make it very clear that she is not my therapist and that she can't help me with the problem in general. I believe it is very important to draw this line.
posted by jfricke at 2:19 PM on May 24, 2010

Part of being a creative professional is the 'professional' part - you show up and do the work. That said, the tortured artist cliche works for some people, but it doesn't work for a helluva lot of people. It's something I regularly discussed with musicians and other artists when I went through a serious bout of depression three years ago.

What helped me was putting a routine together - there was something comforting in the ritual, and the act of 'this is where i sit to make art so put the pen on the paper even if you're just writing 'this is dumb' has power. If you can schedule the heck out of your day, do it. I might suggest the Pomodoro technique where you work for 25 minutes and then take a break and then repeat. Even when you think you can't possibly get through the day, you can get through 25 minutes. And then another one. And then another one.

It's tempting to think "okay yay I'm in therapy and so I won't be depressed any more!" It's not a quick fix. Meds aren't even a quick fix - they may be the wrong ones, they may be the wrong dose, you may not do well with meds and decide to not use them. This will take time. You need to not beat yourself up over how much time it will take.

As for your romantic partner, you can't let your mental health fall below wanting to be The Perfect Partner, especially if you just started dating. IANAD but it's treacherous to navigate therapy and trying to keep day to day life together let alone a new relationship. You have to be priority #1 right now, not New Guy, no matter how awesome he might be. I would talk with your therapist about this.

Don't put too much pressure on yourself is the biggest advice I can give you.
posted by micawber at 2:47 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

The books Feeling Good and Thoughts&Feelings have great sections on how to conquer "do-nothingism." Try searching through them at Amazon.
posted by callmejay at 3:00 PM on May 25, 2010

I went through horrible depression and could not find a fix for it. I ended up moving from rural Idaho to downtown L.A. and could not of been happier. I think a change in environment, and friends is all you need.
posted by digdan at 9:17 AM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

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