Am I depressed or just unlucky?
May 27, 2010 1:07 PM   Subscribe

I have had a rough year and my husband thinks I may be depressed, but I think it may just be a rough patch. There are a few things that have happened in my life over the past year or so that are making me bummed out and exhausted almost constantly. What does your experience with depression tell you about my situation?

My husband started AA after losing about $25,000 in online poker over the course of a year because of his drinking problem. His parents gave us a loan to pay off the credit card, and we're slowly paying them back. He was very inconsistent in his sobriety during the first six months, going to meetings but drinking secretly and continuing the poker habit. He now has 3 weeks sober, and on the right track. He has started studying Buddhism and meditating daily, which seems to have helped tremendously. He also sees a therapist weekly and is taking antidepressants, which have also helped a great deal. To complicate things, my father was an alcoholic who died 11 years ago after many stints of recovery and relapse.

In the meantime, my job (which I previously loved) has become stagnant and frustrating. I have been here for 5 years, been promoted twice and have been very successful in my current role. Unfortunately, office politics have become increasingly negative and I feel overwhelmed by the complaining, arguing and backstabbing that happens around me daily. I also have a one hour commute each way (to travel less than 20 miles), that seems to be getting longer every day. There are still some things that I like about working here, and I have some really great friends that I would feel horrible leaving, but I think it is time to move on. I started sending out resumes about a month ago, looking for something closer to home. I realize that it may be a long haul given the current economy. Even if I could leave tomorrow, it would make the most financial sense for me to stay through the end of July because of vesting of my 401k.

We also started trying to conceive last May and it hasn't happened. We have put our plans on hold for the foreseeable future because it will take us a while to recover financially and emotionally from my husband's drinking problem. I want to have a baby more than anything else in the world and I feel disappointed that it didn't happen right away and frustrated with having to wait. I have a niece and nephew that are the highlight of my life, but they live 3 hours away and I only see them once a month.

I dream about opening my own restaurant or being a wedding planner, but I don't know to get from where I am now to where I want to be. I come home from work exhausted and just feel like sitting on the couch and playing computer games. I tried therapy, but I have trouble talking about my feelings, so it didn't work out. After three visits, the therapist asked me if I had feelings, and I was unable to name any. When my husband and I have discussions about our relationship and future together, I often can't find the words to express myself and end up writing him a long email the next day with how I feel. I realize that this is not ideal, but I have trouble saying what I need/want.

So, I guess I have 3 questions:
1. How do you deal with getting through tough times without completely retreating within yourself?
2. Are anti-depressants the answer?
3. Is there such a thing as correspondence therapy, since I am much more comfortable writing about my feelings than talking about them?

Email me at if private
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1. I ignore it. I spend as much of my time in a delusional state as I can. I realize this is not an ideal solution for everyone.

2. It's hard to say. You don't sound depressed to me, but you might not be giving us the full details either. Do you have fun doing something, anything? Do you look forward to anything? How do you feel about the future, is there hope? If the answer to these things is 'No', then you might want to consider it.

3. I've never heard of it, but I can imagine there are therapists who might do this with you. Or some middle ground where you email your therapist the day before and discuss it on the day you meet. Sounds to me you have more trouble showing emotion to other people then any lack of emotion at all.

You sound frustrated and stressed, with reason. I think that, not being a professional medical doctor at all, if you don't find ways to express and relieve these things.. you will become depressed, if you're not already.
posted by royalsong at 1:22 PM on May 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

After three visits, the therapist asked me if I had feelings, and I was unable to name any.

That's a pretty strong symptom of depression right there. I'm surprised your therapist didn't then try to work from that since it's an important admission on it's own. Maybe you need a better therapist? When I was depressed I hardly ever felt sad. I hardly ever felt anything. I occasionally felt like I was drowning in anger and resentment but even that wasn't constant, I was just a muffled, buried, blank nothing. In my case group therapy and antidepressants worked to fix the problem (and my personality and emotions came back), but what helps each person does vary. Maybe have a chat with your doctor if you're interested in finding out about antidepressants, not necessarily asking to go on them but asking for information in general so you can decide if it fits your situation and find out who to see next if it does.

It's hard to know in this case whether you have a shitty situation that makes you feel bad or depression which makes the situation feel shitty. Probably both based on your description. Either way feeling like you do must make it hard to move on and make things better, regardless of what's the cause and what's the effect, and I think it's perfectly reasonable for you to seek out extra support and help to do so be it another therapist, medication, both, something else.

You have a lot going on here and recognising that something needs to change is a positive step. Even if you are depressed being able to do that shows you're not beyond help so keep at it!
posted by shelleycat at 1:25 PM on May 27, 2010

Yeah, you're having a bad year. Explainable depression is still depression and should be addressed.

Antidepressants can be AN answer to your problems. You seem functional enough that it's not an emergency, but it's kind of like a having bad back--you probably want to do something about it before it becomes an emergency. I would give therapy another shot. A therapist should be able to work with you even if you are more comfortable writing than speaking--maybe it would help to keep a journal and use that to help guide your conversations. If the therapist refuses, find another therapist.

Good luck.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:28 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've never heard of "correspondence therapy" and I doubt you could find someone who goes for it, but you might be able to find a shrink that you can write e-mails to and then discuss the e-mails in person. Unfortunately discussing in person is a requirement of therapy. But if you write stuff down and bring it in (maybe read it aloud), that might work?

I do wonder if anti-depressants can do anything for your situation, because that's a life-in-general kind of depressing. I'm not sure if it's only chemical when everything in your life is flat, stressful, or "on hold" for the foreseeable future. But that's for the professionals to decide, not us here.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:33 PM on May 27, 2010

Nth therapy.

Also, please please please consider putting your plans to conceive on hold. AA typically recommends avoiding new intimate relationships within the first year of sobriety -- a new baby within the first year of your husband's sobriety (if he is successful -- three weeks sober is probably not the time to be making these plans) doesn't sound fair to him, to you, or to the baby. That's not going to help you feel better.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:39 PM on May 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

To answer your first bullet point, I've gotten myself feeling better when I'm in a bad state by going out with friends or family, especially when there's no pressure to talk about what's bothering me. Do you have any friends/relatives who will honor your wishes to not talk about all the crummy stuff going on and just have an inexpensive fun/relaxing time?

Would the parents of your niece and nephew welcome you for a weekend visit? Perhaps you can frame it to the parent(s) as a weekend for them to take a break and have a mostly kid-free weekend. I, too, love kids and find that spending time with little ones does a lot to boost my energy and zest for life. That's a temporary solution but perhaps you can work something out where you can see them twice a month, instead.
posted by inmediasres at 1:40 PM on May 27, 2010

It seems like you've been really drained by it all. You've had a fair bit to deal with and your clearly a very compassionate person because your not expressing any resentment for your partner creating a very difficult scenario for you to deal with. Which is a good thing. But perhaps it's taken it's toll on your energy reserves? It might be stating the obvious but when you get drained energetically it can feel like depression. And we as a society are programmed to grab medication for such things almost instantly which causes us to become trapped in it even more because we never actually get to heal the cause of our pain we just cover it over with drugs. And sometimes people get stuck in that forever never really moving through anything to grow stronger from it. I think you really Need to nurture yourself and give yourself back some lost energy.Revitalize yourself! You deserve to feel good and it will get you back on track. All the good things you want in your life will come to you when you feel good's the way the universe seems to work. Law of attraction! Even though we think we need the good things to happen so that we will feel good, it doesn't work that way. You can only have what your energetically compatible with. When you raise your energy everything will shift.And you do this by feeling good! Feel good by focusing on all the simple joys of life!
As for therapy it's not always easy to find a good therapist because they've just been taught generic words to say!But there is online therapy if you need it.
But you have all the answers within you anyway. Relax stop thinking and feel good! Maybe you should try meditation it's a known cure for depression for one you can control your mind which is the source of all pain. And it raises seratonin levels which is a feel good hormone and you get to just feel at one with all things eventually, which is an amazingly blissful feeling.
posted by lavender9 at 1:40 PM on May 27, 2010

Your therapist asked if you had feelings? WTH.

Still, don't give up on therapy, because it's a way to find answers to your first two questions. Finding a therapist that works for you is the first step of the process, so don't see it as time wasted. Even in those three sessions you learned that off-the-cuff talk therapy is not what you need, and you can use that knowledge to start on a more productive note with another doctor.

IMO there's nothing wrong with writing a long e-mail the next day - writing can be cathartic and revelatory, and in an argument it's often so much better than just ranting or venting. Keep a journal if you aren't already. I don't know about correspondence therapy, but there is no reason why you can't try this approach with a regular therapist too: between sessions, take notes about your day, the problems you're facing and the issues you'd like to address. At a session, note down questions your therapist has that you are not ready to respond to yet and get back to them when you've had a chance to address them on your own, in writing.

What you see as a shortcoming might actually help your therapy greatly. Good luck.
posted by mondaygreens at 1:47 PM on May 27, 2010

I don't think you should add worrying about whether your depressed or not onto your stress list. The solutions are the same nonetheless. Work towards having things that make you as happy as possible in your life, integrate good lifestyle (exercise, diet, meditation if that's good for you) into your life, and find effective ways to work through the tough issues you've been facing. This may well mean a different therapist, maybe meds, maybe not. Forgive yourself for having some tough issues to work through, and move forward.
posted by kch at 1:51 PM on May 27, 2010

Lots of experience with depression here.

Real true clinical depression can be triggered by outside events. What you need to examine is this-are your sleeping and eating habits changing? Are you able to feel happiness when something good happens or do you just feel numb? Are you able to function at work or is that starting to slip?

I'd keep an eye on things, and consult with your therapist or a doc as to whether temporary ADs might or might not help. In the meantime, get as much sunlight as you can, go ahead and take fish oil capsules or flaxseed oil, and try to factor in some regular simple exercise (such as a walk) every day or every other day. Limit sugar intake and up your B complex vitamin intake (that latter is very important-when I am stressed B vitamins help a LOT.)

And schedule some fun into your life.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:07 PM on May 27, 2010

A couple of weeks after my father died, my mother's doctor tried to give her antidepressants. My mother replied "My husband just died! I'm supposed to be depressed!" Which is to say, there would be something amiss if you weren't somewhat depressed, with all that you have going on.

I would use medication as a last resort. Instead, work on removing the negative things from your life. You're already on the right track - job hunting is a step towards removing a negative. Stop worrying about having a baby for now, since you're not trying to conceive at the moment anyway, and worrying won't accomplish anything.

Give yourself a goal, however small, to work towards, to give yourself something to look forward to. Maybe you could do some research online into what it takes to start your own wedding planning business or restaurant? Then start some small project towards that goal, like maybe designing business cards, or writing up a business plan, or researching suppliers and vendors. Even just thinking up the perfect business name can make you feel like you're accomplishing something.

Make sure you're getting enough sleep, and that you're getting enough B vitamins, and vitamin C, which get depleted in stressful times. Get some sunlight every day, and/or take vitamin D, as well.

Can you think of a friend of yours who's always cheerful? Reach out to that person. Make contact with them, because just being around them will help your mood.

And maybe print out these 2 sayings and tape them on your mirror:

This, too, shall pass.

Whatever doesn't kill me, makes me stronger.

Because you will come out the other side of this, and you will be a stronger person for having survived it.

Also, it can take several tries before you find a therapist you click with. Don't let one bad experience keep you from trying therapy if you think it might help you.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:14 PM on May 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just coming in here to say that I saw a bunch of therapists who offered "email therapy" when I was scouting around for one a few months ago. I didn't contact any of them so don't know what it really entails, and this is in the UK, but there definitely exists such a thing, so I'd ask around.

I'm in a similar place mentally at the moment (from what I can tell) and what has helped me with not being overwhelmed by all the different things assailing me was to

1. compartmentalise them
2. make a list of achievable goals
3. take things one at a time and
4. not beat myself up if I do retreat and "not do anything" for a while.

You're in a rough spot, so take things slowly. Don't try to fix everything in one go. I made a massive list of the stuff I want to get done - broken down into tiny chunks. So rather than saying "find a new job" I have goals like "post CV to one site", "apply for one job", "apply for one other job", "search for one hour" etc. These are easier to handle, and having done one of them gives me a mental boost, even if nothing comes of it. (and hey, I had an interview today!)

Your plans for a restaurant or wedding planning business can easily be broken up into manageable chunks:
- do some research online
- contact another wedding planner for tips and advice
- read up on government support for small business owners
etc etc.
For what it's worth, I still spend most of my time vegging out, sleeping, and watching DVDs. But sometimes, I do one of my to do items.

Also, two of my goals are "find suitable therapist", "make appointment with therapist", so count this as another vote for therapy!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:23 PM on May 27, 2010

To answer #3, online therapy does exist. Just google "online therapy." I'm sure there must be online therapy resources in the US if there are in Canada!
posted by foxjacket at 2:34 PM on May 27, 2010

Most therapists I've had have been happy to take printouts of things I've written and go over them privately, then discuss them with me the next time. One particularly stellar guy, who put up with my shit for three years, would also take CDs and mixtapes.

The right medication-- antidepressant or otherwise-- can make a big difference to your ability to successfully employ good coping skills and good crisis management, but I don't think just having a medication strategy magically gives you those tools. You'll likely still need to find a therapist who is amenable to working with your preferred modes of expression, or possibly a conventional "show up and talk" therapist and an online support group for spouses of alcoholics for the times when you just need to type it all up. Online support might not be a bad idea regardless of how you choose to talk to a professional (and they should know where you're getting your online support from, too, as part of your treatment).

It sounds like your husband's struggling, but making strides, and I'm glad to hear he's got three weeks under his belt. Make sure you're taking care of yourself too.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:45 PM on May 27, 2010

1. Allow yourself to feel crappy for a little bit, and then figure out a series of small goals that you can achieve in order to get through said rough times. Since you feel so much more comfortable writing out your feelings, and you need to get in touch with yourself before you can figure out what's wrong and how to fix it, I'd strongly suggest keeping a journal. It could be digital or physical, or just a series of hastily scribbled notes that you throw out, but validating your thoughts through the process of writing them down is a time-honored way of working through problems.

For what it's worth, I've struggled with lifelong episodic depression. What you have sounds like depression due to totally understandable real life issues, but it's still called depression, and can be dealt with effectively. You don't have to just buck up and handle it; you can definitely get help and help yourself through a variety of options.

2. Antidepressants are a tool, not an answer in and of themselves. Your therapist sounds like kind of a jerk. Everybody has feelings! Someone who says they don't have feelings needs a therapist! If you can afford it, therapy with someone who is compatible with you can make a huge difference. If that person suggests that you try antidepressants, it may be worth it to give them a try. There are lots of people on MeFi who are much more experienced with meds who can give you concrete advice about specific options.

3. My cousin went to a therapist who had him keep a daily journal, and when he went in for his weekly visit, he read what he considered the important parts to his therapist, and they discussed it as a start to the session. I've definitely heard of "email therapy" and of course there are lots of online message boards where you can let off steam and get a little help (like, say, AskMefi). There are lots of people who feel more comfortable expressing themselves through the written word, and you should be able to find a therapist who can accommodate this. And, again, try keeping a journal for yourself. You don't have to keep things after you've written them, but the act of writing it all down can be a huge help.
posted by Mizu at 3:54 PM on May 27, 2010

There are lots of people offering online / email therapy. I do think it's a bit of an unknown area for some counsellors. My own experience of it led me to think that if I were to do it again I'd want to be sure that the counsellor had some experience of providing therapy through that medium. MeMail me if you'd like to discuss this further.
posted by paduasoy at 5:58 PM on May 27, 2010

It sounds like you're having a normal reaction to the stressful events in your life right now.
Since your husband is in AA, it might help to attend an al-anon meeting. Al-anon is for people who have been affected by a loved ones alcoholism or other addiction. There you will have a group of people who can relate to what you're going through, and who will be patient listeners. I attended al-anon meetings for a few months to help cope with my mother's alcohol abuse, and I came away from it with a much better outlook on the whole situation.
Other things that might help you get through this tough time in your life are regular exercise, a healthy diet, sunshine, and a solid daily routine or two that exist only for you. One might refer to it as regular "me-time". It sounds silly, but having a few minutes or more a day that you can count on being devoted to yourself is very reassuring and therapeutic.
As far as anti-depressants go, that seems like a decision best left up to a doctor. Personally, as someone who is NOT a doctor, I would just stick to the talking cure for now (echoing what others have said, sometimes it takes a few tries to find someone who fits). Anti-depressants for what sounds like a normal emotional reaction seem unnecessary, and with the side effects and initial adjustment, might do more harm than good. But that is just my opinion, and again, I'm not a doctor.
I wish the best for you and yours, and I hope that you find a way to feel yourself again.
posted by Half-a-Dozen Paper Cranes at 10:04 PM on May 27, 2010

My husband started AA after losing about $25,000 in online poker over the course of a year because of his drinking problem.

My God, dear, I cannot say this strongly enough: Give yourself permission to be affected by this.

Not having feelings or being able to identify them, as a symptom of depression, is termed dysthymia. It may manifest as low-grade depression, or as one of numerous other symptoms of a more serious depression.

I suggest that your home life is affecting your ability to judge your job situation accurately. I wouldn't make any decisions about that right now. I'm really glad you're putting off the kid. I suggest this delicately, but it's possible that your yearning has much to do with the void your life seems to be right now. Focus on getting things right for you and your husband first and that yearning will become a different feeling of readiness to take on an awesome responsibility.

If I had one suggestion to you that could help, it would be to consider making your commute by bike. Turn that time into you time, get juiced on your own oxytocin, and generally feel better and healthier. But yes, get thee to Al-Anon. You have no responsibility to bear this burden alone.
posted by dhartung at 10:48 PM on May 27, 2010

1. How do you deal with getting through tough times without completely retreating within yourself?

As a Jungian I believe in trusting deep impulses and trying to overcome external judgments about them. For example, "retreating within yourself" sounds entirely appropriate given the external pressures you're being subjected to. Going deep within, as your husband does in meditation but in your own way such as in journaling, might be needed to build you up again.

2. Are anti-depressants the answer?

Maybe in addition to inner "work" (it can feel delightful and scary but rarely like work) but, I believe, never in place of it.

3. Is there such a thing as correspondence therapy, since I am much more comfortable writing about my feelings than talking about them?

Brilliant; see that's you listening to your psyche and it's prescriptions! Trust those impulses. You write well. You could correspond with someone and ideally a good therapist but you could also journal to great affect.

May I suggest you meet with a Jungian analyst in your area and see if you hit it off. If you have preconceived notions about "Therapists" they're unlikely to fit them.
posted by Pamelayne at 8:10 AM on May 28, 2010

Moods have momentum. Even if you were the happiest person alive before this latest rough patch it can still be very difficult to reroute the direction your emotions are taking you. There is a reason depression is referred to as a downward spiral.

Antidepressants can provide a way to change the momentum of your mood. When I started taking antidepressants, I didn't understand how to function as a non-depressed person. Antidepressants gave me the opportunity to see things a different way.

You have dreams you don't know how to fulfill, you are exhausted all the time, you are out of touch with your feelings. It looks to me like the events of the past year have turned your emotions down a negative path. And with reason! There is no denying the tough times you've been through lately. But you don't need to continue in this manner. The **right** antidepressant can be the best kick in the pants you ever received. It was for me.

Finally: don't settle for a therapist or medication you don't like. They won't all be right for you. Good luck!
posted by bobobox at 3:25 PM on May 28, 2010

BTW, I no longer take antidepressants. Use them when you need them; they are by no means a life sentence.
posted by bobobox at 3:28 PM on May 28, 2010

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