This cowardly lion wants to GRRL up
January 26, 2013 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm in a difficult life situation, in addition to which I am having some problems with ADHD, depression and anxiety. I'm insecure to the point that I cannot accurately assess my situation, and frozen with fear.

I realize that I need to take action - ANY action - and stop stalling and hoping for a sign or insight.

When you were stuck and scared, what jolted you out of it? When you're frozen with fear and insecurity, how do you manage to ground yourself in what is real?

Inspirational movies or quotes, simple wisdom, therapeutic tools .. all are welcome.

(Am currently in therapy but changing to a new therapist who treats ADHD and practices CBT).
posted by bunderful to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you've taken the most important first step, which is trying to find the treatment that is right for you.

What inspires me is often having music to listen to with a strong message of self-affirmation -- a lot of recent punk/rock music is good for this -- and having a support network even if it's "just" an online community where you can vent and share with others.

(For specific music suggestions, maybe the Distillers or some of the earlier AFI albums on the punk side of things, Rush on the rock side and yeah I know they were into Rand for a while but their interpretation of objectivism basically does just boil down to 'be yourself!')

One of the best pieces of advice I've personally been given, as someone who deals with anxiety issues, was to make a list of things you want to accomplish each day, even if they are very small, and check them off when they are complete so you can celebrate yourself a little bit each day and see that you are awesome and capable of doing things and you have a productive and useful existence.

Also, divide big tasks into smaller steps so that you don't have huge obligations looming over you but instead a steady pace of individual to-do's that you know you can complete. This also helped me figure out what in particular were the most anxiety-causing parts of certain tasks, and helped me understand the underlying triggers of my fears.
posted by capricorn at 10:23 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

1. I remember what someone on here said awhile ago that if you are stuck between several courses of action, it probably means they are roughly equal in terms of pros/cons. So just pick something already and start taking action in that direction.

2. I remind myself that "most things turn out mostly ok most of the time."

3. When I am overwhelmed by a task, I take frequent walking-around breaks, during which I make a point of breathing slowly and deeply, telling myself "you can do this". Then I set a goal to finish some small chunk of the task, at which point I'll take another walk-around break.

(At work my walking-around breaks consist of some combination of bathroom, kitchen to get some water/coffee, and checking my mailbox. When I'm home working on a tough assignment for class, I take frequent breaks to do a bit of housework. I just need to get moving to release some tension/anxiety.)

4.When I am overwhelmed by everything I have to do, I take some time to organize and prioritize my task list, making sure everything I have to do is on there instead of on random post-its, papers, notes, emails, etc. It helps to see it all in one place with a priority and timeframe for each task. I do this in Excel so that when I'm done I can sort by priority, and then I have my plan of attack. So much better than having this overwhelming sense of "all this shit to do" and not having any idea where to start.

5. I take meds for depression, and I feel better if I exercise, as far as energy, anxiety and depression go.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:36 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

First, I'll give my standard caveat that if you think your health is seriously at risk, you should call a professional and get some help ASAP. IANAD, IANAT, IANAP. Nothing that follows applies if you are in serious trouble and need help now.

On to the post-caveat advice:

One symptom of the depressed mindset is an inability to project a future, even a distant future – every thought is consumed by the Now. The whole of experience orbits this ever-present Now. Attempts to see beyond the Now are blocked by the depressed mind. Try to imagine the happiest moment of your childhood when you're depressed, and it ends up looking like the saddest thing that ever happened to you. Because Now is constantly injecting itself onto every memory. Moments of your life that were not sad/anxious/angry/depressed start to take on the flavor of the Now. Depression is like a time-distortion field inside your brain.

People who have never been depressed don't get this; they think depression is just feeling like crap for an extended period of time, which is only half of the story. The big reason depression is not the same as long-term sadness is that it makes you temporarily blind to anything but the Now.

When you're spinning your wheels and you know it, you're actually in a pretty good situation. "What?" you say. "But that's totally counter to how I feel! I'm trapped and I can't move forward!" But you will move forward. Your situation is temporary. There is something beyond the Now that will be completely different. You will not always feel this way. I am not being overly optimistic in saying this. It is literally true. But because you are in the depressed mindset, you are stuck in the Now, unable to think yourself out of it.

I am hopeful for you, because you do seem to acknowledge that you're going through a rough patch, that this isn't your permanent condition. This is important.

It's also worth keeping track of how much of your depression is a result of aspects of your life that genuinely, objectively suck. I'm talking about things like health issues, financial problems, and unhealthy relationships. Start getting concrete about your problems. What are you afraid of? What real risks do you face right now? What are your main stressors? Who in your life is supportive, and who is toxic? How can you take steps to reduce the everyday bullshit that all of us must endure to background noise? Start finding little changes in your life to make your situation even the slightest bit less painful.

Also, exercise. Get into some kind of cardio – running, cycling, swimming, etc. Tired of hearing about how exercise cures depression? Me too. Maybe it won't work for you, but let's find out with science. Get out a piece of paper. Write out 30 rows. In the left column, write the date for the next 30 days. Now in the next column, you get to add a check mark every day you spend doing at least 30 minutes worth of vigorous exercise, the kind that leaves you sweaty and out of breath. In the column next to that, draw a smiley face to indicate how terrible you felt that day, as recorded at bed time every day. Do this for the full 30 days and I suspect you will find that the days you exercise are always slightly better.

Small, incremental changes are the way to go. You aren't going to get very far waiting for some big, earth-shattering event that fixes everything.
posted by deathpanels at 12:04 PM on January 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think it would help you to be more specific and less global.

Sometimes when things are phrased in such a global way with such stark alternatives and dire outcomes riding on the decision, it can paralyze you. Stop looking for some kind of secret or trick to acting / making a decision. There are no secrets.

Can you give more of a specific decision that you are paralyzed with? Do you need to decide whether to have bacon or sausage? Take this job or that one? Go to this college or that one? Break up with this person or not?
posted by jasper411 at 12:15 PM on January 26, 2013

Starting is often the hardest part. I find it helps to set a timer for 5 minutes and do anything - start the dishes or sort the laundry or open my email or start that email to a client or whatever of my many procrastinated tasks is the least nauseous. Anyone can pretty much do anything for five minutes, and if you hate it, you can stop at the five minute mark.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:58 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Break things into tiny steps and then just keep taking the next step.

For example, say you think you might want to apply to some educational program. Tell yourself you're just going to open the brower and read its webpage. Tell yourself you're just going to read the application. Tell yourself you're just going to fill out the application. Tell yourself you're just going to send in the application and it'll just become another application in the crowd.

If you have to talk in front of people, tell yourself you're just going to prepare what you're saying. You're just going to travel to the venue. You're just going to go inside. You're just going to wait for your time to present. You're just going to walk out there. You're just going to say the first words. Eventually you push yourself to the point that was freaking you out all along and the impetus to finish is way greater than the reluctance you had to be in that situation -- e.g. you're in front of a bunch of people and just started talking, so you sure as hell would rather KEEP talking than run away in front of everyone.

I did something similar when submitting short stories around. At first I was nervous, but told myself to just filll things out, just sent it, they get a ton of submissions and it's unlikely mine will be the worst they read. The very first time I did this, I aimed high as a joke, because I wanted to get rejected; I'd realized that was something I needed to make peace with because it was holding me back, and I knew that I valued trying more than not trying and I hated how paralyzed and perfectionist I'd get about stuff. So I sent it off to this particular place thinking of it as practice for failure, and I felt good after I did it because I didn't let myself freak out and do nothing. In my mind I had already failed, and it was great, and I actually felt a lot more at ease with other similar things in the interim: trying new things, knowing when not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, worrying less what people will think when I'm not good at something, observing how other people seem comfortable trying things and telling myself they just try things, so I can too, etc. It was a good lesson to learn but I had to drag myseld through it by downplaying each step.

But then months later I hear back, and I actually got an award and went to awards ceremony and everything, which was nerve-wracking, but: I'm just putting on this outfit, just getting in the car, just driving, just going inside, just presenting my invitation, just getting my seatig assignment, just beig seated, just watching the ceremony, etc. That is a nice thing to have learned early on, that you don't get shit for not trying, but if you try, things might turn out better than expected -- and sometimes the good outcome can freak you out worse than the bad outcome, so it really sunk in for me that anything good I would want would freak me out no matter what and that just came with the territory. It was clear to me that if I wasn't freaked out sometimes, it meant I wasn't trying to do anything that would make me happy.

Then once I did that, it was easier for me to submit again. And then I got rejected. And that was way easier than going to an awards ceremony. So I submitted and got rejected a lot and none of it was scary; what would be scary is not getting rejected.

So The first time you do anything, focus on how banal the tiny steps really are. The meaning attributed to the whole of the steps is entirely in your head, and it will overwhelm you when in reality you, say, fill out forms all the damn time or go inside buildings all the damn time and walk two yards to something all the damn time and... you get the idea. You "all the damn time" yourself the whole way through. Even if you feel like something is entirely new, you can frame it that way. If I had to be in a basketball championship tomorrow (I am terrible at sports), well, once I got myself out there it would be: "I move from place to place all the damn time, I pick things up all the damn time, people see people suck at basketball all the damn time..."
posted by Nattie at 1:00 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Make intricate lists for (what are normally) simple tasks. If you want to, let's say, walk for 20 minutes every day in the morning, but you have problems getting out of bed and getting moving, you might have a list that reads:
  • Get out of bed
  • Go to bathroom
  • Do not climb back into bed! (this is a big speedbump!)
  • Brush teeth
  • Mouthwash
  • Put on underwear
  • Put on walking clothes (lay them out the night before to remove a speedbump)
  • Put on socks and sneakers (You are now dressed! Woohoo! This is big!)
  • Check that you have what you need to leave the house (keys, music, pedometer, earphones, phone, whatever you need)
  • Leave house
  • Walk
Note that this list does NOT simply say "Walk for 20 minutes in the morning." It is broken down into small and achievable steps. It may seem ridiculous, but each step is a success on the way to a small goal. Collect small goals and you achieve medium goals. Collect medium goals to achieve large goals. If you have a clear, concrete list of next steps, it's harder for your brain to trick you out of doing something. The depressed, distracted brain will attempt to tell you that what's next is uncertain, so better not to do anything, or to keep doing the "immediate satisfaction" activity you are currently engaged in. With a list, you know the next step. If you need to break it down to "Put on right sock. Put on left sock." levels, do that. This is for you, no one else. Keep following your list, every day. Treat it like a checklist. The more you do it, the more it becomes ingrained, until it is a habit.

BEWARE: There will come a day where you don't follow the list. You get an early morning phone call, the power goes out, the alarm doesn't go off, you're sick, something happens. Your brain will tell you "Ha! See? You don't follow through. It got tough, and you stopped. You failed. Just like always." Your brain is WRONG. If the distraction is momentary (the phone call) go back to the check list. Start where you left off. Continue. If time doesn't allow you to continue, start again the next day. Learning that you can miss a day and it is not the end of the world is important. Just start again.
posted by booksherpa at 1:02 PM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Can you give more of a specific decision that you are paralyzed with? Do you need to decide whether to have bacon or sausage? Take this job or that one? Go to this college or that one? Break up with this person or not?

I'm jobless and I have too many options: Stay with career that I may suck at. Change to new (undetermined) career that I might suck at. Continue to be jobless and eventually become stinky person on the subway. Move to a different city and suck at old or new career there, or be jobless there.

... I got rejected. And that was way easier than going to an awards ceremony.
posted by bunderful at 1:55 PM on January 26, 2013

I have ADHD and am chronically indecisive in my personal life - not professionally. I find exercise really helps - I usually can work out the problem in my head while walking/jogging. It also helps with the low dopamine problem that most people with ADHD have. You did the right thing to switch to a therapist who treats ADHD.

I'm jobless and I have too many options: This in a nutshell is what happens to most people with ADHD who have too many choices, they either pick everything or nothing. IMO there's not a lot of in between for us. Write down all you options and the pros and cons. Good luck.
posted by lasamana at 2:55 PM on January 26, 2013

Break things down into small, manageable pieces. Create to do lists - mundane ones and long-term ones. After some time I might change the lists - they're not supposed to make you complete everything on the list, they just exist to help you make concrete the thoughts in your head so that you can get some momentum going.
posted by heyjude at 4:54 PM on January 26, 2013

Simple rule of thumb that never hurts*: if you don't know what to do, have a glass of water.

*assuming you're not about to go into a long movie or job interview or somewhere else you can't get bathroom breaks, of course. And as long as you drink reasonable amounts of water.
posted by ambrosen at 5:01 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Being jobless sucks. You feel rejected personally and you have too much time to brood and obsess about scary futures and feeling worthless and angry.

So being jobless is a bad thing. But being jobless doesn't mean you're worthless or a bad person or that you'll end up stinky and homeless. That's your fear and anxiety talking, exaggerating the worst possible outcomes. Try to keep bringing yourself back (gently) to a focus on your job/career.

What kind of careers are you talking about? Do you, in fact, suck at them? Or is that more of the worthlessness fears talking?

There are many careers I would suck at. However, for some of them, I could learn and work and get better at them. If you actually do suck at a career, is it worth it to you to do the work that might lead to you getting better at it?

To answer to that last question, you might want to think about what's important to you in your life as a whole, not just the job part of it. Ask whether a particular job/career/path might help bring you closer to what is important, meaningful or worthwhile to you.

If you like being a helping person, for instance, choose the job or career path that allows you the opportunity to help people, whether that's as a receptionist or as a doctor or a librarian, rather than a job that isolates you. If a job leads you toward things that are important to you, you won't mind working at getting better at it.
posted by jasper411 at 5:16 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll reiterate something I posted in another thread: sometimes people think they are unsuited for a particular career when in fact they were unsuited to a particular job. If you've just come out of a toxic and/or dysfunctional job situation then your perceptions are probably colored by that. Be gentle with yourself and don't jump to the worst conclusion that you suck at your career field.

To keep the dosh rolling in while you plan your options, temp agencies are great (and may also give you a chance to try out a new field).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:38 PM on January 26, 2013

What works for me is to completely throw myself into a new interest, or a new area of an established interest. It sometimes takes me a while to figure out what will consume my attention to the point where I stop thinking about my own problems, but there's no mistaking when I find it. Keep searching. I learned how to cook, which helped me start dating again. Around the same time making soap with raw goat milk was another outlet, but really it was working with my hands that was the true catalyst for a career change. I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to cook or make soap for a living, but that working with my hands doing something highly skilled and creative was satisfying. It got the ball rolling and kept me from obsessing about which direction to go. Now I am beginning a much more satisfying career as a goldsmith, plus I can make amazing soap or a meal from scratch.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:59 PM on January 26, 2013

FWIW, I also have ADHD, have struggled with anxiety and depression. I know the mental place you're in very well. Don't discount the effect of your (previous or future) work environment on your mental health, as Rosie mentioned. It doesn't even have to be toxic or dysfunctional to be wrong for you. Many people with ADHD work well within structure, even though a lot of us tend to resist schedules. If you're given too much latitude at work, especially with scheduling, it can create some similar issues re: anxiety from too many choices. Find out whether it's your career or your work environment, or some other issue, but dive into some other interest in the meantime to keep yourself busy.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:07 PM on January 26, 2013

All the answers here have been so valuable - I really appreciated it.

I'm still working through this but I am feeling much better and more hopeful. (What made the difference was getting an interview and doing ok with it - just remembering that I do have skills and yes, I can add value).
posted by bunderful at 9:55 AM on February 6, 2013

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