If I give in, I'm giving in to all the cute, fuzzy bunnies in the world.
February 15, 2011 12:12 PM   Subscribe

All of the places I trust to provide comfort and security, in any form, are imploding. I've already been existing in coping mode; what can I do now (particularly day-to-day)?

The past few months have been difficult, but the past week or so has been hell. I'm finding it increasingly hard to deal with the changes around me -- especially since they're happening when I need support the most.

Family: Crashing and burning for the last two years. Parents' marriage is zombie-like; both parents are severely depressed and on another planet, as well as in serious financial straits.
Work: I work for a state university. Reorgs make everyone rush around like chickens with their heads cut off, and my already-difficult job got even more difficult to negotiate. I can't find anyone to either tell me what I need to do or stick up for me.
Work #2: My boss and mentor, who had run our department for 33 years, was informed that her job was disappearing. She's still here, because others have quit, but the surrogate family I had (yeah, I know it's not ideal, but we take what we can get) is gone. I can still talk to her, but she's shellshocked too. We've lost that lovin' feeling.
Work #3: I can't concentrate (see above, plus ADD), and the quality of my work has gone into the shitter. Job searching has already been very difficult before that. (My bosses are references; my position is a temporary one that can theoretically be renewed for another year.) Oh, and our governor is not helping.

The biggest stress is just a sort of third-life crisis. I'm trying to plan a wedding for the early fall. Most of the arrangements have been made, and the event itself doesn't faze me (hey, we've done it before!), but it brings up a lot of fear about providing for a family and being a good spouse... which all of this other stuff doesn't help. Postponing or cancelling the wedding wouldn't fix this.

I'm essentially hibernating. I go straight home, watch TV and surf. I can't bring myself to get out and go to some sort of exercise thing because (aside from hating it) I'm exhausted and don't want to be on my own in a crowd.

I have friends, but very few close ones (in town). I feel like I don't matter to people (which is becoming more of an issue as others around me also back into a self-protective hole), so I don't trust interactions with anyone but my partner. Which is ALSO dangerous, because a) I don't want to drain him and our relationship, and b) what if something happens to him?

Why yes, I AM in therapy! It's a newer setup, though, so we're still getting to know each other. I am also taking an antidepressant and an ADD medication. Last week my psychiatrist and I decided to switch to a lower dose of Vyvanse instead of upping my Effexor, hoping that that might reduce some of the anxiety, but perhaps that wasn't the way to go.


My self-awareness has been a double-edged sword. Until this week, it felt like depression symptoms without the despair. But now I'm not so sure. I know it gets worse before it gets better, and somehow I'm still optimistic... but owwwww.

So... help?
posted by Madamina to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you're really busy between work and wedding-planning, but is there any way you can give yourself an honest day off, like a Saturday or a Sunday? Take a bunch of hours and do something you haven't done in ages, like go to a museum, go for a hike, drive to a nearby town and hit a cafe. It doesn't sound like there's a quick fix for most of the problems you name, but doing something fun–even if fun sounds impossible right now—might help you (temporarily) detach and refuel. Good luck!
posted by toomuchkatherine at 12:19 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are dealing with an incredible amount of stress! And loss--the loss of a close "work family" is really tough, and needs some space to grieve. There's a reason why everyone cries in the last episode of "Mary Tyler Moore."

Hibernation seems like a very natural response to all of this, but I think that even feeling like you need to get stirring is a positive sign. Have you tried doing some things that are about grounding you in your body? Massage is a huge help to me when I'm overwhelmed with stress, as are hot-tub soaks. Yoga/Pilates/stretch classes can really help as well, or even something as low-tech as making time for 20 minutes of dancing around your house to your favorite guilty-pleasure boppy music (ABBA Gold is my drug of choice for this).

You are awesome. You are dealing with super-tough stuff. It is difficult. Hugs to you, if you'd like them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:26 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you need to get out of the house and maybe out of town. It's amazing what a change of scenery can do. If you want to take a day trip, or meet in the middle*, give me a call or shoot me a memail.

*caveat: I don't actually know what's in the middle besides the outlet mall.
posted by desjardins at 2:05 PM on February 15, 2011

Can you set up 15 minutes a day where you spend time doing a hobby or craft you enjoy? Maybe you can take this time after you leave work but before you reach home, at a space like a library or cafe or mall. Sometimes having a mental island can help me.
posted by dragonplayer at 3:01 PM on February 15, 2011

Response by poster: A change of scenery would be very helpful, since the apartment is kind of drawing me into a vortex. I'm supposedly a hardcore knitter, but I haven't actually sat down and knit anything in many months. I would love to find a place away from home that had a nice couch and a good place for me to plug in and write or something.

It just takes a lot for me to get off my ass and do stuff on my own, you know? When the things you count on suddenly fall apart, it's hard to trust anyone or anything else to stick around :P Even with my friends, it's hard to let down my guard and say, "You know, I'm actually feeling pretty shit-tastic and would like to sit on someone else's couch for a change." I feel like I'm imposing or that I can't offer them the same courtesy.

desjardins... there's always the Pine Cone :)
posted by Madamina at 3:22 PM on February 15, 2011

When my life was like this a couple of years ago (parents were divorcing, mother had cancer, I was unemployed, my husband and I were having problems...) my therapist suggested one thing that helped get me through (until the drugs started working, anyway :) )

She got me to make a list of all the things that gave me a little bit of happiness or comfort, which for me ended up being:
- massage
- warm bubble bath
- chocolate
- good hearty food
- sleeping late
- coffee
- walking in the national park
- playing with pets
- reading trashy novels
- wearing soft comfortable clothes
- using luxurious-feeling lotion
- listening to my favourite music
- baking

And she told me to schedule at least one of those things (preferably two or three) every day. Scheduling is important, because then you not only enjoy the thing itself, but you also look forward to it during the rest of the day. It's a lot easier to handle a grumpy boss, or a stressful phone call if you can think all the way through it "Just another hour and then I'm going to get into that bubble bath with a glass of wine!"

It's just about being kind to yourself, especially if no one else is being kind to you.
posted by lollusc at 4:15 PM on February 15, 2011 [12 favorites]

I should note that of course these things that bring happiness are not the same for anyone, and if you are depressed, it's kind of hard to identify them. In fact, I made it sound like I just sat down and wrote that list, but in reality I couldn't think of a single thing that made me happy when I was talking about it first. So instead the therapist prescribed homework of trying a bunch of different things all weekend, and making notes about how they made me feel: did that activity bring me energy, take energy, lift my mood, lower my mood, leave me more or less calm, make me smile, etc. I didn't feel like doing much, even so, but when I paid attention to how things I did anyway affected me, it helped me identify the above "good" activities.
posted by lollusc at 4:20 PM on February 15, 2011

Madamina, I don't think I live anywhere near you, but you are invited to come over and knit and watch crap tv with me any time.

I usually don't answer AskMe questions where I don't have an actual answer, but your question struck such a chord with me. I'm also a state university employee with parents in poor health. Work is such a grind, everyone is dispirited. My mom had major surgery; my beloved, ancient cat died suddenly.

Along with all that I've had terrible headaches, exhaustion, asthma, and a depressive episode that isn't responding to the meds I'm given. Sitting in a chair, being friendly and helpful for eight hours a day at work, while also helping with my mom, is almost more than I can do.

I just really related to your question, I guess.

So, a few things. I didn't do any housework except dishes and laundry (which are tasks I like) for weeks. I just gave myself permission to not do it and to not care about not doing it. That actually worked out well - the world didn't end and I picked it back up naturally, when I felt up to it.

I'm to the point of seeing my doctor every two weeks now. And I'm as honest as I can be with her - I'm too exhausted to exercise that much / I hate cleaning humidifiers and I won't do it so I'm not getting one / this med isn't working / this med has shitty side effects and I need to try something else. I'm also trying to do everything we negotiate an agreement on, to the best of my ability, even the damn Neti pot.

She's suggest my husband and I take a quiet weekend together away, which sounds great but I haven't had the energy yet to make that happen.

I have been trying to keep in contact with my far-away friends in a tiny fashion. Just a "hi - thinking of you!" text which is easier for me than a phone call, but I know I made an effort. I'm trying to do one social thing each week and usually manage two. They are regular meetings, a craft group and a knitting group - so I know they're coming and they don't disrupt my routine. I'm not up to much more right now.

Trying to eat well, and am actually leaving work an hour early every few days to get home and have time to make a nice, healthy dinner. I have the vacation time, and while I usually hoard it for a big trip, right now I need extra time in my schedule to work around my exhaustion.

I've been knitting headbands - simple, quick, satisfying, nice yarn. I don't have the energy or concentration for a big prestige project right now.

I like lollusc's list too. I've been finding pleasure in my favorite pjs, nice meals out, and so on.

It's been a hard slog and I started to feel like I've always felt this way, and always will feel this way.

Until today! Today I felt a few moments of - almost grace. Like I just felt comfortable and awake and satisfied. I walked home and my pace was easy, the walk wasn't a struggle like it has been. I looked up at the sun raking across the mountains, with a cool breeze going by, and I smiled and felt okay.

I'm hoping for moments like that for you too.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:19 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hah, I could have written most of this at one point or another.

Anyway, I mostly try to (a) get out during breaks (if the weather isn't awful) and (b) try to leave the office during lunch to do something ELSE-- go shopping, go knit, read a book, something like that. Try to get away from being trapped in your cube feeling sad when you can. Four nights a week, I'd say to not even try to do much beyond come home and watch TV-- it's hard to mentally escape far enough from a bad/uncomfortable work situation when you get a few hours at home, go to sleep, and then you have to go back into it the next day. Don't even worry about exercising until the weekend. Use that time to do the stuff you can't deal with on weekdays.

Other than that... well, the net and television take you into another world, which you can really use right now. Hit the library for books. See if you and your fiance can come up with some day trips. Come up with whatever you can for mental escapism, however possible. That's what I'm doing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:13 PM on February 15, 2011

When I'm feeling really wrung out and worthless and stressed, I find that reading books is a better de-stresser than the internet or TV or movies. I don't know why, but it makes me feel better. Perhaps because I have to take more part in the experience (picturing the scene and the characters, imagining the tones of voice), it feels more immersive, and takes me out of my life more. Thus it ends up being a better and more complete escape than other media. I know it's not like this for everyone, but I only discovered this a few months ago myself, so I thought I might mention it here. Perhaps you or someone else reading the thread can benefit from it a little sooner than I did.
posted by Because at 9:59 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

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