Big life changes and feeling unsettled
May 6, 2013 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Do I need professional help or just time? I've been feeling anxious and stressed for the past three months, and I'm having a hard time parsing if this is due to this being an exceptionally...erm...challenging point in my life or if some sort of anxiety or depression has settled on me.

In short, in the past 3 months I've: redecorated and put our house on the market, moved overseas, started living with my in-laws, submitted my PhD, possibly bought a house here (dependent on the bank finally sending the money), and started a short-term consultancy position. Midway through all of this, my husband developed a quite serious infection and spent a week in the hospital (although he's better now). Currently, we're living in my in-law's house, and it's generally going ok, although it's been a bit of a shock to go from living in our 3-bed house to having just one bedroom in a house that's not ours. Oh, and we also have a 1 year old son. (And two cats, though they require considerably less work).

For the past few months, I've felt run down and struggled to be my 'normal' self. I feel like crying often, and would love to sleep and do....something, though I'm not sure what. I feel lonely and like my reserves are all gone. I'm having a hard time feeling any enthusiasm for the future. Since the PhD has been submitted, I've had some time to do relaxing things (dinner with Mr. Brambory, a morning of sketching, some sewing), but the feelings haven't really lifted. Part of me is excited to start this new phase in life, but it's fighting against a much larger beast of concerns, worries, and exhaustion.

I've been putting this down to the all-nighters I put in to finish my PhD, the stress of moving, and everything else listed above, but I also have a history of mild anxiety and depression (though only partially dealt with professionally). Also, I've had a week since my PhD was submitted and a very nice morning on Sunday all to myself, but still this unwanted cloud is here.

So, how much of this is a normal reaction and how much of this screams, 'find a doctor'?
posted by brambory to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Currently, we're living in my in-law's house, and it's generally going ok, although it's been a bit of a shock to go from living in our 3-bed house to having just one bedroom in a house that's not ours.

Just that alone - without all of the other very stressful things you're dealing with - would be enough to set me way back in my struggle against anxiety and depression.

Depression and anxiety aren't necessarily caused by external factors, but the factors can certainly trigger them, exacerbate them, turn a bit of a down month into a dark hole. If I were you, I'd go see a doctor. What you don't want is for it to get to the point where you can't get yourself to a doctor, because then it becomes this horrible cycle.

You're dealing with a lot. Maybe you just need some outside perspective, someone to talk to. Maybe you need a little pharma help. I don't know - but it's certainly worth talking to a pro about.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:54 PM on May 6, 2013

It is normal but it also sounds like you need a support network that is "yours" and a therapist is a great addition to your network. I didn't see any mention of your family and friends, and this is a time to lean a little heavier on them so you have the resiliency for them to lean on you through their tough times.
posted by saucysault at 2:55 PM on May 6, 2013

You've had a very stressful time, so it will be more than likely that you're just burnt out.

However, what being burnt out does is opens you up to other problems, including health and anxiety/depression issues. So I'd probably do something proactive about it. See your doctor and get your iron (and everything else) tested; if acupuncture's up your alley, do that; yoga or meditation can help; if you need to, talk to a counsellor. And try to have some fun in there.
posted by heyjude at 3:35 PM on May 6, 2013

Best answer: Any single one of these - a one year old, a PhD, an international move, a house sale, living with your in-laws - would be enough to cause depression or burnout. FWIW, I also don't think a week after submitting your PhD is really enough time to adapt to a major identity transition.

Make sure you have some support - are you making any friends? - talk to your GP, and maybe see a therapist privately for half a dozen sessions just to have someone to check in with and get some strategy.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:40 PM on May 6, 2013

Every one of these things is a major stressor. I'm kinda surprised you handled them all at once. Get some good meals, some good sleep, some exercise and some sun.

I'd say keep an eye on the depression/anxiety/stress. If you have down time, using it for psychological growth can be really good. Otherwise, just relax and only worry about prevenitave measures if things get much worse.

You invested a ton into yourself,but relaxation is just as important :)
posted by Jacen at 7:51 PM on May 6, 2013

Best answer: In December I started a new job and moved in with my boyfriend within the space of about 2 weeks. Both of those changes caused me to not feel like my normal self and experience depression and demotivation for several weeks. In combination with the neverending winter and the stress of Christmas, I think that depression lasted well into the beginning of February.

You just submitted a Ph.D last week? For that alone I would say you'd need at least two weeks to decompress. In combination with all the other changes ( moving overseas is a huge one), it seems really normal that you would feel disoriented... like a sort of life jet lag.. so many things have happened in such a short time that you haven't had the chance to get up to speed. I'd give it more time, and do all you can to decompress and relax for the next little while. I agree with the basics above-- get good food, sleep a lot, and exercise. Try yoga if you can-- it could be that you are bottling up or unaware (physically) of your exhaustion.. yoga could make that exhaustion come to the forefront of your awareness so that you can actually lie down and get a good sleep, and take cues from your body about what you need right now.
posted by winterportage at 9:58 PM on May 6, 2013

Best answer: I think this is all perfectly normal reaction to what's been a lot of stress. Finding a doctor to talk to may help, because it gives you some support - which it sounds like you really need. Change is stressful, even if it's good change that moves you in directions you want to go. Make sure you look after yourself and be kind to yourself, because if you start beating up on yourself for how badly you might think you're handling all this change, it will only make things worse. Realise that you are doing a lot and dealing with a lot and that at the moment, you are probably too exhausted even to properly enjoy the downtime you're taking. It doesn't mean you shouldn't take the downtime, just don't feel bad about not enjoying it as much as you might otherwise, or about not feeling re-energised afterwards.

I am not your mental health professional, but my advice would be: Find someone to talk to about the stress and everything you've been through - whether this is a doctor or a trusted friend. Try to see the humour in things, because laughter helps. Take 2-3 weeks in which you make sure you are getting enough nutritious food, sleep, exercise and leisure activities that make you feel like you (by which I mean hobbies/activities that are deeply comforting or restorative, like reading, playing computer games, folding origami, cooking, whatever is your thing). If at the end of that, you still feel like this, then yes, seek professional help. Not because you're broken, but because you have run out of cope and need someone to help you.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:17 AM on May 7, 2013

I swear I had symptoms similar to mild PTSD for about 6 months after I submitted my PhD thesis including nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks. It's a pretty major event even without all the other stuff you have been up to. Just batten down the hatches, elbows in, head down and you'll get there eventually.
posted by kadia_a at 2:00 PM on May 7, 2013

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