I don't think it's just Senioritis
October 6, 2010 5:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm in my last year of school at one of the best universities in Canada, with a job waiting for me when I graduate. I have a fantastic (long distance) boyfriend whom I love to pieces and vice versa. I'm on anti-depressants and spent the last two days in bed. One of these is not like the other.

I know these types of questions tend to run long, so I'll try to keep this as concise as I can.

Personality: I'm almost a stereotypical nerd - I'm a little introverted, a little cynical, I don't party and rarely drink, and I'm very much a realist. I place a very high premium on being rational and logical and I tend to be very introspective to the point of being stuck in my head a little too much. Some of my friends might describe me as a typical overachiever. I'm on good terms with my parents, who are divorced, though we are not close. They, and my younger sister, are the only family I'm in regular contact with.

Background: I got good grades in a very rigorous academic program in high school and was involved in a lot of activities and jobs ont he side, but I always had the sense that I could've done so much more/better if I'd just had a little bit more discipline. I worked hard enough enough to get one of the better scholarships my university offered, but none of the national awards I applied to. I had a really hard time transitioning to university and making friends, and that combined with what I now suspect is a bout of depression resulted in a pretty sharp drop in my grades.

I wasn't enjoying my program and decided to throw myself into extracurriculars and pick up a second major to meet people. I got burned pretty hard by some of the drama in some of the clubs I joined (including a weird emotionally abusive almost-stalker situation), but I also made some fantastic friends.

I was also overloading myself. I took on some pretty time-consuming leadership roles and that, combined with my double-major, was taking a toll. There were weeks where I was sleeping 20-30 hours over the entire week. Over the summers I was working full-time or more to save up for next year. By my third year I'd also picked up a part time job. Still, I looked at people around me, and thought I should've been doing more. People were only impressed with what I was doing because they didn't know how lazy I really was.

I'd always considered myself as having a strong sense of responsibility and duty and rarely reneged on promises, to friends or otherwise. By the second term of third year, I started missing shifts at my job...not even because I'd overslept, though that accounted for a lot of it, but simply because I was awake and couldn't bring myself to get out of bed. Needless to say, that relationship ended badly.

Okay, I said, I need to recharge. I set things up so that I would only be responsible for my classes, and a part time job TA-ing, for my fourth year. I spent the summer interning for the company I will be working for, while doing a bit of web development work on the side. Despite really good feedback on my job performance, I still felt like I was muddling through the job, and people only thought I was good because they didn't really know me. (Yes, I'm aware of 'imposter syndrome'.)

Current situation: I developed a habit of spontaneously crying over nothing, sleeping at irregular times even when I had work the next day, picking fights with my boyfriend, and just being grouchy in general. I was in a different city from where I go to school, and decided to wait until I got back to school to see someone about it.

Well, I'm back to school, with barely any stress or expectations. I've been on an SSRI called cipralex for three weeks, which has helped stem the spontaneously-bursting-into-tears thing, and I've booked a therapy appointment for the first week of November (the first slot that was open).

Here's the problem: I still can't get out of bed. I've lost 7 lbs in the past month because my appetite's just disappeared (this after having struggled for a year to lose weight through as much exercise as I could fit into my schedule). I haven't done any of my readings, and I've skipped a lot of class. I just let a deadline pass today without even bothering to look at the assignment. I have never in my life failed to submit an assignment. I have another essay due on Thursday and I spent most of the past 24 hours sleeping, or reading Metafilter on my phone. I've never been more apathetic in my life, and it scares the shit out of me, because I don't deal well with apathy.

What the hell do I do to get my butt in gear?

NB: I'm reading Feeling Good, and finding CBT less than helpful so far, but I will keep reading. My boyfriend of a year knows about most of this and has been totally supportive, but he works full time at a demanding job and there's only so much you can do from a distance. I have friends here who know about this, but I've been mostly avoiding them because I don't want to worry them.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Dear heart, this is Depression with a capital M. Call whoever prescribed the antidepressant and let them know what is going on.

This is not about getting your butt in gear. This is about your brain chemistry. It has affected your thinking more than you even know.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:41 PM on October 6, 2010 [11 favorites]

I don't know how Canadian universities work, but if you were in the US, I would suggest you go to your academic dean and tell them that you have a health problem (depression) that is keeping you from doing your work, and you need help to deal with this problem. This should get you the help you need. So go to whoever is the Canadian university version of an academic dean.

You sound like you put a lot of pressure on yourself to be perfect (I know because I've been there).* This can make it hard to seek help for things like depression. If this is the case, please just bite the bullet and do it. If it still feels too much like admitting a failing (which it really, really, really is not, but I know how it can feel like it is) then try telling a friend first. When you see how a friend reacts with compassion and empathy, it'll be easier.

* For instance, getting one of the best scholarships is an amazing accomplishment, but you follow it right up with the fact that you didn't get a national scholarship. I did this to myself for years and it's soul-crushing.
posted by wholebroad at 5:46 PM on October 6, 2010

Talk to your doctor. You might need a dosage change or a different medication. Some medications effect energy levels more than others (I find that Welbutrin energizes me, for example, though it also makes me jittery). There are a million types of antidepressants out there and one of them can probably help you with both the weepiness and the modivation.

Hugs. It gets better.
posted by NoraReed at 5:48 PM on October 6, 2010

Also, big kudos to you for asking for the help you need, by getting a prescription and posting here. I struggled on and off with (mild, but still) depression for years and never got the help I needed because I was afraid to ask for it. I'm a million times better now, but I really regret all the years I could have been so much happier.
posted by wholebroad at 5:49 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may also want to call wherever you got the therapy appointment and, if you just told them something like "I'm feeling a little depressed," tell them "I didn't tell you everything before: I haven't gotten out of bed in two days, I'm losing weight because I can't bring myself to eat, I've slept for x hours in a row, I can't do my schoolwork, and is there any way I can get put on a cancellations wait list or otherwise get in to see someone sooner?" Sometimes they have something available in situations like this.

Take care--there are people out there to support you and get you through this!
posted by wintersweet at 6:03 PM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you need an earlier counselling appointment. I'd suggest going to either the counselling office or student health and telling them that you are in crisis (oversleeping, missing assignments, losing weight) and that you need to see someone *now*. You might also try your campus' centre for students with disabilities (whatever it's called where you are) - mood disorders "count" as a disability, and they may be able to help you with getting academic accommodations. I know how hard it is to take these steps (been there, done that, re. depression), but a) you need help now, not in a month, and b) you're probably coming up to the drop date (dropping courses with no academic penalty) - if that's already passed, and even if it hasn't, having extra support while you negotiate with profs (scary, I know, but you can do this!) is a really good thing.

I am sending lots of hugs your way.
posted by purlgurly at 6:07 PM on October 6, 2010

This is major depression, please print out your post and talk to a medical professional. Tomorrow. Three weeks is long enough to know that your meds need adjusting, and you shouldn't wait till your therapy appointment to do something to fix it.

Also, you need to find a dean of students or someone similar to intervene academically. Ask the medical professional you talk to tomorrow for help with this if you don't know where to go.
posted by SMPA at 6:10 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hi, I'm you. What I should have done was be more verbal about how crappy I was feeling. Really complain to the doctor, and let her know how bad I was, instead of trying to 'man up' or whatever, and pretend I was doing OK. And try different medications until I found one that REALLY made me feel better, instead of just saying the zoloft was helping when it really wasn't.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:12 PM on October 6, 2010

After speaking with your doctor, can you hit the road? A month with no obligation?
posted by R. Mutt at 6:13 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, this sounds so (painfully) familiar. Nthing "this is depression". Nthing "call the therapist and tell them you are in crisis and need to be seen urgently" and that your prescription may need to be adjusted or changed.

Coming at it from another angle, a book I highly recommend is The Depression Book by American Zen teacher Cheri Huber. I really believe that this book, plus her book (Regardless of What You Were Taught to Believe) There is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate, plus the right dose of a suitable antidepressant and working with a good therapist, saved my life. I've been struggling with depression most of my life and have spent far more time feeling suicidal than I care to calculate. These days my usual mood is content and often even happy, and I think most of the change has to do with the awareness practice techniques she teaches. (I mention her rather a lot when the subject of depression comes up because her work has been so life-changing for me.)

And an immediate, practical suggestion: get outside and go for a walk. Around the block once, if that's all you can do, but get yourself moving through your environment under your own power with your head up. I found it really helpful, when my depression was severe.

Very, very best wishes. If I were there in person I'd make you a cup of tea and give you a hug and then drag you out for a walk in the sun. It really can get better.
posted by Lexica at 6:36 PM on October 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm reading Feeling Good, and finding CBT less than helpful so far, but I will keep reading

Are you doing the exercises? You must do the exercises for the book to work. It will not work otherwise.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:47 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh man, have I been there.

Let's face it: Bed is awesome and everything else sucks. At least that's what it seems like when you're in bed. The trick is to get out of bed.

(Ugh! I know!)

Set an alarm to wake you up fairly early. Put it across the room, so you have to get out of bed to kill it. Set a second alarm clock to go off a few minutes later in another room that has breakfast and coffee in it, all set up and ready to go. Make and consume both. These alarms should be annoying as fuck, btw. The old-fashioned two-bell metal clanger type are the absolute worst/best. Cellphones also work great.

Shower, brush teeth, etc.

Get tomorrow's clothes ready tonight. Put them in a really, really convenient place. Put your coat and shoes and book bag and keys and stuff there, too. Put everything on and leave the house.

Keep warm (long underwear is your BFF).

Oh, and definitely call your doctor ASAP, 'cause you might just be getting shitty effects from the SSRI, which after 3 weeks, would be just starting to kick in right about now. And definitely talk to an academic advisor, a prof, a department head, a dean, a counselor, or whoever happens to be hanging out in the student union office--whichever you run into first. All of them are there to help you survive and succeed. Any of them would be happy and able to help you out, or at least point you to someone who can.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:58 PM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

(P.S. When's the course drop deadline? It might be worth skipping a semester or two.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:02 PM on October 6, 2010

Hi, I'm you, too. Don't have much to add that hasn't been said, but I wanted to offer solidarity--I'm nearly exactly where you are in healing. It's okay to ask for help and good on you for doing so. That's always been my biggest barrier when I've experienced depression in the past.
posted by emkelley at 7:15 PM on October 6, 2010

You need to start enjoying life a little bit. It's ok - go ahead.

Why are you in Uni? To learn some stuff in a structured environment, make friends, get a career.

You're learning stuff, you have friends, you have a career opportunity waiting for you.

Chill. Take it easy a bit. Keep your classes if the courseload isn't too high. Drop classes that aren't interesting. You have a job waiting for you. The rough part is over. You have a good job waiting for you. In 5 (or even 2 or 1) nobody is going to care how you did at Uni. Kick back and enjoy your last year - life's going to be a lot different once you graduate.

Don't worry about how well other people are doing; the majority of other people are doing much less well than you. A lot of people are putting on a "good face." A lot of people are Dunning-Krueger victims (they only think they're doing well because they're too incompetent to know how much they suck).

It's ok to indulge a bit of laziness and to have fun and to take care of yourself. No-one's going to do it for you, especially since you're keeping that info from them.
posted by porpoise at 7:19 PM on October 6, 2010

Hey guys, OP here. I'm totally and completely appreciative and thankful of the answers that have been posted so far - you people are fantastic. I also wanted to follow up and clarify/answer a few things:

Are you doing the exercises?

My main issue with CBT right now is that it's really hard to find an underlying thought to analyze. It's not like I'm lying in bed thinking "I'm a worthless human being", which is an obvious cognitive distortion that can then be tackled. I'm just in a zoned out sort of daze, mindlessly flipping between my online haunts hoping for updates. When I have noticed myself thinking negatively I do apply the exercises, and they have been helpful in that instance.

When's the course drop deadline? It might be worth skipping a semester or two.

Due to juggling two degrees, my courses are packed pretty tight, and dropping even one course at this point would mean withdrawing from one (and maybe both) degrees. I've deferring, but having a job offer for September means I really really can't fuck this year up. Plus, honestly speaking I haven't had an amazing time at university and I've been counting down the months until I get out of this place since third year, and the thought of deferring and coming back to this environment makes me cringe.

That's it for now, I think. If I missed anything please let me know. Again, thank you so much for the supportive comments. I'm watching this thread like a hawk.
posted by Be cool, sodapop at 7:25 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like maybe you aren't making enough time in your schedule to take care of yourself. You NEED MORE SLEEP, and you need to eat better. No SSRI is going to fix you* if you can't do those two things first, and maybe get a little moderate exercise in, too.

I went through half of college feeling tired and emotionally/cognitively foggy. My diet was crap and I did not exercise and my sleep hygiene was bad; even when I got 8 hours it was not the same 8 hours every night and so I felt like crap in the afternoon especially. I have fixed all those things and now grad school feels so much easier because I have energy to burn. Yes it took a long time to fix all that stuff and make new habits, but every hour I put into cooking for myself or getting a little more sleep seems to pay off in actually somehow getting more done. I know the change will suck at first, but believe me, your life will be so much easier once they become habits that pay you daily dividends.

I know how 'sleep right and eat right' sounds, honest. It sounds trivial in comparison to the magnitude of fighting with your boyfriend and crying when you can't help it and not being able to complete your coursework. You think it sounds like pollyanna crap or sanctimonious health-nut BS, but it really really works in the long term, and it can also be a small source of daily pleasure if you're into food and cooking.

*but please keep taking your meds and consult with your mental health team regularly, they are there to hold your hand as you make those lifestyle changes that will hopefully stabilize your moods over the long run.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:26 PM on October 6, 2010

Oh, I remember having days like those, right down to letting deadlines fly by without even caring.

One person helped me tremendously a few years ago my becoming my advocate. I reached out to her and she saw that I was too depressed to even make the necessary phone calls, so she took care of everything : called my doctor, my therapist, made an appointment with the dean for me, made sure I got there on time.

YMMV, but when I'm in those moments, everything other than lying is bed is too much work. Do you have a friend who can do this for you? Someone near you?

Please feel free to Me-mail me if you want to talk. You'll get out of this.
posted by OLechat at 7:28 PM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Absolutely textbook description of depression (IANAD but a lifetime sufferer). It's important to realize that depression robs you of all perspective. For instance, a person with depression might think, "Why should I bother anyone by asking for help when I'm just so totally worthless?" That's how depression makes a person think, even if on another level you know it's absolute crap. St. Alia is correct: It's brain chemistry gone haywire. Please make the effort to see a doctor and/or therapist sooner rather than later and have your medications adjusted in quantity or type. More people care about you than you know.
posted by scratch at 8:05 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you had your thyroid checked? That's something else to consider.
posted by RUPure at 8:39 PM on October 6, 2010

Oh, your post describes my senior year of college perfectly. I was diagnosed with major depression. It was one of the hardest times in my life because I was so unprepared for what I was feeling. Here is what helped:

-I saw a therapist every week. I know you said that you have an appointment for November 5, but please try to explain to the program that you are in crisis and need to see someone sooner.

-When I blew off a deadline for a class I should have been getting an A in, I spoke to my TA. She said that the professor and her already had had a conversation about how I was a stellar student and they couldn't figure out why I was struggling. I explained that I was seeing a therapist for major depression. She said that if my therapist could write a letter on my behalf explaining why my condition would interfere with my school work, then I could have an extension on the assignment. That helped tremendously. Plus, I felt more comfortable in the class knowing that the TA was aware of my situation. Can you speak to your professor(s) and try to get a letter from your doctor so that you can get an extension?

-Cut out anything in your life that is unnecessary. I understand that your classes are arranged in such a way that you cannot drop one, but are there other activities that you could quit? Could your parents give you an allowance so that you don't have to work a part-time job right now? I started withdrawing from all but the most important commitment I had at the time. Those decisions gave me more time to do my school work and more time to nurture myself.

-Thankfully, a close friend took it upon himself to help me get to therapy appointments and go to the gym almost daily. We also studied together often. He wasn't my personal assistant, but he was a really positive influence. I still broke down crying in the shower every day. I still left in the middle of classes to cry in the bathroom. I still skipped a lot of meals. I still thought that I wanted to die. But at least I didn't hurt myself or fail out of college. I am still incredibly grateful to him for his help. If at all possible, ask a close friend to help you keep basic commitments.

It took the better part of 18 months before I began to feel better, but I did get better! While I believe that major depression is a lifetime struggle, it can become manageable. Your ability to process what is happening can improve and you can lead a very fulfilling, happy life. Don't give up.

Please reach out to your trusted friends and family members and a professional. I sincerely wish you the very best.
posted by pinetree at 9:35 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

You say you've lost your appetite and can't get out of bed. Have you been eating? If you haven't, that can start a cycle where you just feel more weak and lethargic and ironically can depress your appetite even more.

Can you get something delicious delivered to your room? If not, forcing yourself to get out just to buy something like an apple is an important first step for now.
posted by people? I ain't people! at 10:21 PM on October 6, 2010

sodapop, you will survive this, and come out the other side.

Promise this community that you will do two things tomorrow:

1. call the counseling center and tell them you need to see someone TODAY.

2. call your SO or your mom or your best friend, and ask them to confirm that you are getting the help you need. On a daily basis, if necessary.

There is help for all of the academic stuff out there, but you don't have to fix it tomorrow. Just get to your counselor.

I've been where you are, several times. And if you have the ability to recognize that there's a problem, you will be okay. It's okay to need a friend to walk you to the counselor. During my last depression, my husband (who wasn't even my husband yet) missed work and classes to make sure that I made it into the shrink's office. Because I was sick, and I needed to get better.

This absolutely sounds like the peaking of an episode and a bad medication reaction. On my first antidepressant, I developed acute social anxiety and couldn't leave my dorm room for a week. Then I switched meds, and the depression got better.
posted by freshwater at 10:50 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

FWIW I think you're getting good advice here. I also wanted to say I do not think CBT is useful for major depressive episodes. It's fantastic for anxiety and PTSD and situational issues where you are having cognitive distorition, but as you yourself point out it's hard to use outside of that. Medication + traditional talk therapy = better, in my experience.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:13 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been there. Yup, it's depression. Hang in there.

People have already given good advice, and I just want to underscore the ones I felt were very pertinent.

1. Go to a counselor of some sort NOW. Try to move up your appointment, telling them it's urgent. If they absolutely will not, is there a drop in counseling through your university? Most schools have it, and they can take you in really quick, and the first few sessions are free (at least at my public US university). It's worth a check into you schools mental health services. I would absolutely advise against sucking it up until next month. By that point, if things don't get better, you might have failed your classes already.

2. Talk to your professors that you've missed the assignment and explain your situation. Don't just let this slide, because it's a slippery slope. Talk to your academic advisor. You need to let them know this is not you being lazy, but that you are going through a rough time and are taking active steps to help yourself. Do this now, because it's not going to work at the end of the semester, or after your "Not Pass" grades gets in. I'm not saying this to scare you...but it's good to take precautions now, and keep the communication open. Professors should be understanding, and someone should be able to point you to the next step and resources, if you need it.

3. The first few weeks on SSRI's are difficult for some people. Some people might go from moderately depressed to suicidal. I hope your doctor warned you about this? Anyway, I would call up whoever prescribed you the medication and ask if this is a side-effect, and whether the dosage should be tweaked. Sometimes, they might ask you to cut the dosage in half or something. Absolutely keep in touch with your doctor, because you're taking stuff that's altering your brain chemistry. Don't try to change your dosage yourself.

4. You seem to have had a lot of stress and issues going on in your life for awhile. It's great you're seeing a therapist-- you seem to need it (not trying to be rude...just an observation). Working with a therapist regularly on CBT will hopefully help you, and you'll be able to live life without the anxiety and imposter syndrome, which seems to be what's also triggering your depression.

5. A lot of posters are trying to tell you to relax, take a break, whatever-- which is true. You probably already know this, so strangers on the internet saying such things won't help. As mentioned, you need to actively work on the root cause of your issues with a therapist. I know how difficult it is to "relax" when someone just tells you to. People like us don't even really know how. I don't think just running away and convincing yourself that school isn't that important is a good idea; additionally, I can understand not wanting to withdraw. You should probably wait awhile before making any rash decisions, especially waiting for the meds to settle and actually meeting with a therapist, but don't completely write off that option if you really need it. (By the way, is it possible to withdraw, but take classes over the summer? Or have you already factored that in? Additionally, realize it's not crucial for you to take on 2 degrees. You already have a job, you learned what you wanted to learn-- you don't need a piece of paper saying you completed that second degree. If this is causing you this much stress, I would consider dropping one of your majors. You already have a job, and unless this major was something like computer science that you absolutely need the degree as a credential, I would say it's not important at all and nobody cares if you double majored. All that's important is that you graduate.)

6. Right now, try to focus on your actions, because right now, it's the only thing you can control (that's classic CBT); you don't need to try to rationalize or change your emotions. Get 7-9 hours of sleep-- No more, no less. Eat regular, healthy meals. Exercise (this can really help with the mood). If you can't get the energy to exercise, go out for a short walk. Take small steps in completing your readings. Take it one day, one hour, or even one minute at a time. But do get out of bed-- you're going to end up feeling worse if you don't.

7. Get support from loved ones. Talk to your partner and let him know what's going on. Do you have close friends you can just grab coffee with? I know everything feels so exhausting and daunting, but even if you don't feel like it, you need to do things you know are good for you. Haul yourself outside for a bit, even if you absolutely don't feel like.

Best of luck!
posted by lacedcoffee at 11:26 PM on October 6, 2010

"It's not like I'm lying in bed thinking 'I'm a worthless human being,' which is an obvious cognitive distortion that can then be tackled. I'm just in a zoned out sort of daze, mindlessly flipping between my online haunts hoping for updates."

That makes a lot of sense, and it's great you're able to figure out what's getting in the way of using cognitive strategies. One option: when you notice yourself zoning out, try just forcing yourself to do something active - exercise, work, anything involving getting out of bed. When this doesn't work (as it probably won't, although it would be great if it did), then notice what thoughts you start having. When you say to yourself, "time to go!", what do you reply? "I just can't"? "There's no point"? Etc.
posted by synchronia at 11:55 PM on October 6, 2010

It sounds like the medication you're on is not right for you, or only sorta working. It's worth noting that appetite loss (and then weight loss) is a common side effect of several antidepressants, so that may be the medication or it may be the depression. The apathy and staying in bed, though, still sound like depression, and even if they were caused by the meds that's an unacceptable side effect. Talk to the doctor who prescribed it and see if you can switch. Make sure your doctor monitors your progress on the drug and schedules follow-ups - antidepressants are not fire-and-forget prescriptions. (When I switched meds last year, I was at the psych all the freaking time during the transition, sometimes just to say "yeah the new dose is working.")

I agree with DarlingBri on CBT. I think CBT, therapy in general, and other strategies like exercise, meditation, etc. are very helpful if your brain chemistry's already at a certain point. Some brains need medication to get to that point.

Finding the right antidepressant is a lot of hassle, and it feels sort of unfair to have to go through the trouble when you're depressed and can't bring yourself to do much of anything, but it's so worth it when you find one that works, and you will feel a real difference.

Also, talk to your friends. I get the feeling that you don't want to weigh them down with your problems, but you don't have to suffer in silence, either. Be honest and open, and if you can frame it in a "I am doing my best to get through this and I will" light, because you are and you will. You might be surprised at how many of them have been through the same thing.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:32 AM on October 7, 2010

You've already had an abundance of good advice but I just want to highlight the wisdom of getting the support of someone with authority at your school, your academic adviser or a dean. They can talk to you about what kinds of accommodations can be made. That's essential because even if you get the right meds and access to goo therapy immediately, your depression is going to take some time to turn around. If you can't muster the energy to go speak with the appropriate person, at least send an email explaining your situation. You need to reach out for help.
posted by reren at 6:18 AM on October 7, 2010

Hey, me-a-couple-of-years-ago!

There's a lot of great advice in the thread and I hope you'll be able to take it! The one thing I'd really like to stress because it's hard (especially for a rational person) to understand is: depression messes with your mind, big time. It alters not just your feelings but also your perceptions, your thoughts about those perceptions, your judgement, your reactions, etcetera. (Fatigue sort of does the same thing, but not as sneakily and often in a lesser degree - simple example: distances to walk seem farther if you're tired.) That's also why CBT won't help enough at this point, as DarlingBri noted.

The irony is that you might read this thread and be thankful for the advice, but still think stuff like 'oh, but they think I'm in a much worse condition than I'm really in, so not all of it applies to me' and 'the stuff they tell me to do isn't possible for me, because they don't see the whole picture' (I'm seeing bits of that in your reply). And hey, guess what, that's the depression messing with your mind again. I'm absolutely not saying that you should take the internets advice no matter what and that we know what's best for you. I'm just saying that right now, you're probably not the best judge of what's best for you either. So, please seek help. Both professional help (and soon, as noted above) and someone close to you for practical stuff. That might mean that you'll have to trust one of the new friends you mentioned - which might be scary because you probably haven't let them see this side of you. But you might be surprised how much people can help you once you've finally allowed them to see that you need it.

Good luck, take care and feel free to me-mail me.
posted by Ms. Next at 8:13 AM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

The common thread I saw in your post is the continuing sense that whatever you are doing, no matter how well you're doing it, and no matter how impressed your friends and colleagues are with your performance at it, you see their respect as unfounded because "they don't really know you." But they don't have to know what's inside your head in order to appreciate the reality what they can see you doing. If you're tackling two majors, taking on leadership roles in several clubs, and working a part-time job, you're not lazy. You might feel lazy on the inside, you might feel like you could accomplish more, but the proof of your non-laziness is right there as you hustle from one thing to the next, and you're friends can see it and value it. Hard work is hard work, regardless of whether you feel like it's not inside your head. People just don't give out praise that readily, so take them at their word when they offer it.

If anything, it seems like you're putting a tremendous amount of pressure on yourself to be more than what you are currently, no matter what that is. You've been burning brightly for a little too long and how your mind and body are putting an end to it. The advice above about depression, medication, and counseling is sound advice, but it also seems to me (a stranger from the internet dispensing wisdom while sitting at his computer in his bathrobe) like you need to figure out how to take credit for the things you're doing well and the hard work you're putting in, give yourself a break on the things you fall short on (everybody has them), and then get some professional help on how to balance the desire to achieve with the need to relax.
posted by ga$money at 8:13 AM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hey everyone, OP again. You always know in the abstract that MeFi is awesome, but when that awesomeness is directed towards you, you can't help but feel overwhelmed. So, thank you, everyone.

A follow-up and some comments:

I've made an appointment with an emergency counsellor type for later this morning. Fingers crossed for things going well. I've spoken to the prof whose assignment I missed about an extension, and I got until later tonight to submit a make-up, with a promise to keep him generally apprised of how things are going.

Three friends had been vaguely aware of my situation in addition to my SO. I've shown two of them this thread, one of whom is going through a similar experience. Both expressed... Well, lack of surprise, mostly, that this was going on, but I think they trusted me to handle myself and ask for help when I needed it. (Which I did, I suppose.)

I talked with my SO as well and we were going through the thread together on the phone. The conversation got a little tense at times when I continued making excuses for why I could wait three weeks instead of seeing someone right away - Ms. Next, your comment in particular hit the nail on the head. "It's not a crisis," I said. "They're just overreacting. You know how AskMe can get." I think almost more than anything else, his concern that I was in a much worse shape than I let on spurred me to actually do something about it, and I'm definitely glad this thread provided us with an outlet to talk about the elephant in the room.

The reason I've been absent from the thread as well is because I was working on the paper I had due Thursday morning. An all nighter, an energy drink, and 1,800 words later, it's handed in with no late penalties. This buys me a bit of a reprieve to catch up on readings and hopefully get sorted out a little bit. Being productive felt really good, and I really needed that. (I also crashed as soon as I got home, heh.)

So, not a happy ending, exactly, but it's a start. Thanks once again to everyone for all your advice and concern. I appreciate it more than you know. I'll be re-reading this thread a lot in the next little while.
posted by Be cool, sodapop at 6:47 AM on October 8, 2010

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