Apathy busters.
June 2, 2013 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I am depressed -- not the sad miserable suicidal kind but the apathetic, heavy can't get out of bed kind. (I am unfortunately familiar with both.)

I need some right now strategies for beating this. "Just Do It" isn't working. I am hungry right now but it feels too burdensome to figure out what to eat. My messy house is getting me down but it is easier to just go to sleep. It is beautiful out (I think) but in order to go for a walk I would first need to get dressed and fuck that. I am going to leave out the whys and wherefores about the specifics of my situation, because instead of analysis (my specialty!) I need quick, practical tips for surviving today. Being apathetic and laying around is making me hate myself more. Hope me.
posted by summer sock to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Call someone you know who is close by and tell them to come over. Say you'll have some snacks (easy stuff, like Cheetos in a bowl) and beverages, and you'll watch some tv. If you want to go outside, ask someone to go for a walk...in 15 minutes.

Being accountable to someone else generally gets me going. I hate having to do many of the things I wind up "wanting" to do before I do them (tons of dread), but I've signed up for them and others are counting on me (those sets for the next play aren't going to paint themselves!), so I do them, and then feel pretty damned good about accomplishing something once I'm done.
posted by xingcat at 2:08 PM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

If it is sunny outside roll into the sunshine for a little while. This is something my pdoc used to recommend back in the days when I had one. It works.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:09 PM on June 2, 2013

after that, do you have a timer? (Probably one on your phone if you don't have a kitchen timer lying around. ) Set it for fifteen minutes, no longer, and pick one room to pick up and straighten. As soon as the timer goes off, you can stop. My recommendation is then to get a beverage and a proteiny snack and then get back in to the sunlight for awhile. Lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:11 PM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Can you order food in through the computer? (Seamless, Grubhub, Foodler?) If so, my rule for ordering food when I'm in a funk and can't make decisions is to order from the place with the highest ratings and to choose something on their "Most Popular From" sidebar.

Once you have food in your stomach, everything gets easier. :)
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:13 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

No television.

Splash cold water on your face. Throw some of that water in your mouth and swish it around. Put on baggy shorts, baggy shirt, hat and ... this is key ... sunglasses. I call this my "disturbed" outfit. Slip on some flip flops. Find a stick of gum, preferably mint. Find your keys. Put them in your pocket. Throw a couple bucks in there too. Leave your phone behind.

Go outside. Walk for 15 minutes. If you are within striking distance, stop at a grocery store. Buy some greens, a lemon, some olive oil. Bread. Come back home and read one chapter of a book you love, or look at the pictures in a magazine or art book.

Go into the kitchen and wash the greens. Either steam them or eat them raw with salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon, and a hunk of bread. Have a nice icy glass of water.

This will help. Love to you.
posted by thinkpiece at 2:15 PM on June 2, 2013 [20 favorites]

The only thing that has helped me when I've felt crappy in this apathetic way is to allow myself to say "this totally sucks and I hate it. I don't want to get dressed or leave the house but I am going to anyway because I know it will help me feel better".

Then I just do it, while honoring the fact that I really don't want to. Admitting and accepting that I don't want to seems to help me get over the apathy hump.
posted by zug at 2:22 PM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

I know the feeling, and I really sympathise with you. This is a pretty overwhelming place to be. I agree with thinkpiece.

"Clean the house" is too much to even contemplate, but "walk around and pick up the dirty dishes" is a good start. Break everything down into simple steps and focus on doing just one thing at a time.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 2:26 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take a shower. Don't think about it, just walk away from the computer RIGHT NOW and go do it. Everything will be easier after that.
posted by desjardins at 2:30 PM on June 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

It is beautiful out (I think) but in order to go for a walk I would first need to get dressed and fuck that.

I'm familiar with that game. "I want to do X, but first I have to do A, and B and C -- why bother..." Don't play that game.

I would first need to get dressed and fuck that

Hold on to that "fuck that" sentiment. That's usable energy and you can harness it. "Fuck that" is exactly the attitude you ought to take to A, B and C. Showering, shaving, picking out clothes -- is that's what's keeping you from going on the walk you want to take in the sunshine? Fuck that and screw social convention. Throw on some jogging pants and go.

Stop telling yourself what you ought to do. You're quite probably wrong about what you ought to do. Depression builds a cage of imagined obligations. Today, be deliberately transgressive.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:35 PM on June 2, 2013 [15 favorites]

For ordering food, also consider Jimmy Johns and pizza. You can even put in your credit card online, so you can minimize your "talking to delivery guy" time.

You're already online, order some food. Then put on sweatpants, and go sit on the front porch/stoop/whatever until your food arrives. See. You've done the delivery guy a favor, now he doesn't have to look too hard to find your door.

When you get inside with your food, put on some music. You can make a new Pandora station. Maybe sing along if that's your thing.

As for cleaning the house, that is not your immediate goal. Just pick one small goal. Like, all the drinking cups out of the bedroom. Then rest. If you have the energy/give enough shits to get all the dirty dishes into the kitchen, then go for it. But if not, just do the cups for now. Next round can be plates. Bowls after that.

Other house cleaning type tasks that are relatively painless might include wash your sheets, or your towels.
posted by bilabial at 2:38 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wash your face. Damp cloth, quick once over. I do this when I'm feeling ill and can't muster the energy for a shower. I don't know why or how, but it works. I should add that this won't cure your apathy, but it is a quick boost that can start you moving.
posted by Solomon at 2:47 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know why or how, but it works.

It triggers the mammalian diving reflex, which in addition to conserving oxygen and slowing the heart rate, helps with feelings of being overwhelmed. Dunking your face into a sink/bowl of cold water really, really works to calm me down and get me going.
posted by desjardins at 3:01 PM on June 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

Move a bit. Stretches, dancing, jumping, yoga, tai chi? Feel better soon!
posted by travelwithcats at 3:32 PM on June 2, 2013

I usually sit up in bed and put something funny on the television. Then call my Mom (call someone who you don't need to "act" for... better if it's someone who can make you laugh). Or put on some upbeat music that you know the words to. Maybe some coffee or green tea to get you motivated enough to clean up or take a shower.
posted by KogeLiz at 4:09 PM on June 2, 2013

Slow stovetop kettle, filled full of cold water. Put it on the heat, stay in the kitchen. Prep your mug as you like, and then as the water boils, do as much as you can in the kitchen and surrounding areas until the water has boiled and your tea has steeped. Pick your most favorite tea with the smell that reminds you of good things. You will be surprised at how much of a dent can be made in the time it takes for a kettle to boil. Do this every time you want tea - drink lots of tea! - and suddenly you've gone from spending 0 minutes cleaning to spending 45 minutes cleaning and it didn't even feel like that much of an issue, since you are rewarded with tea every time and the end is in sight - you can hear the kettle getting hotter, anticipate the break. (Protip: Herbal tea half the time so you aren't overloading on the caffeine. I like peppermint!)

Getting dressed is hard. One, bras fucking suck, two, the only stuff that fits is stuff you've worn so it's dirty, three, the people will know that you did not try your best to present yourself as a functional human and your disguise will be revealed and everybody will know about your sad inner life of depression and dirty dishes. But you know what? That last one is absolutely 100% the depression talking. People go grocery shopping in their pajama pants. People smell to high heaven and nobody says a word because they don't affect their day and are forgotten the next second. It is maybe problematic to put it this way, but basically it helps me to think about how nobody who sees me outside is going to remember me in twenty minutes unless I go out of my way to interact with them. So I suggest to you that you put on those dirty clothes, that probably don't smell as bad as you think, and you find those comfy shoes, and you wear a hat so you don't even need to brush your dang hair, and walk to the nearest public park space. Then walk back. I double dog dare you. You don't need a goal or any sort of thing you have to get, and you won't be interacting with other people apart from passing them on the street. You don't even have to wear a bra. Then you come home, and you feel really really damn good about it, because you did it, you got dressed and you went outside and smelled the air and looked at the plants and wore shoes and that is, in all seriousness, huge. Use that leftover buzz to order delivery of something including vegetables. (Pizza? Chinese?) A lot of pizza places have online ordering now! It's super great for phone-phobic depressives such as myself. You can even pay with credit card online and include tip, sometimes.

Really though, try your best not to let all the things that need doing loom up any more than they already have. Figure out the most immediate need you have, and plan on doing exclusively that for the whole day. If you find yourself with the wherewithal to do something after that first thing, you're ahead of the game. Best of luck, and do try to remember that you're not alone in this or any other thing.
posted by Mizu at 4:32 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

My trick is usually to wait until I need the loo badly enough that I can't lie in bed anymore. Certain biological needs don't care about your apathy. Then, since I'm already up, will shuffle into the kitchen and make a coffee, or grab something basic that does not require preparation to eat (ie fruit, muesli bar, etc, kept for exactly these times). Then just the next step. You don't have to prepare the whole thing, just break it down into steps - have shower. Find clothes to put on. Sit on the couch instead of in bed. Every time you do something, congratulate yourself. Mean it. You have done something!

In a previous post you talk about your oppositional inner child. Maybe talk to yourself as if you were a child - not in a "You must do this now" kind of way, but more "hey, let's get up and have a shower, the water will feel really nice and we can use the nice smelly soap" (yes, really as if there is more than one person in there, I know there isn't, just go with it). Then after you've done something, let your inner child say "hey look, I took a shower!" and be proud of itself for having done something. And praise it. It's okay to laugh at yourself too. Laughter helps.

I think you need to listen to yourself rather than tell yourself how disgusted you are with your own apathy. You need to be kind to yourself rather than bully yourself into doing something. Sometimes it is really fucking hard, and it doesn't make sense, but that's just the way it is. Meditation can be pretty tough when you are depressed, but it can also really help, especially with listening to yourself and accepting yourself.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:28 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sometimes music will give me just enough of a boost to get going.
posted by annsunny at 9:05 PM on June 2, 2013

Oh, yes! Music really helps me, too. I am not prone to always having music on in the background and sometimes I'll be getting very low and suddenly it will occur to me that I hadn't listened to any music in a month. Something as easy as a one-shot Pandora station, so the only decision you need to make is to type in a single band name you enjoy, or maybe even the music recced in the last Mefi Podcast, might give you enough of a boost to do something like get some good food into yourself.
posted by Mizu at 10:33 PM on June 2, 2013

Hold on to that "fuck that" sentiment. That's usable energy and you can harness it.

Yeah this.

There's that saying, "Depression is anger turned inward."

I think that's trite and kind of cheesy, but taking that anger and forcing it out helps meā€”even when I don't feel angry.

So, seriously. Put on your headphones and find the angriest music you can find. This has been working for me lately. Put that shit on even before you get dressed, and turn the volume up as high as you can stand. Start jogging immediately, in your underwear.

Find some pants you can run in. Find a shirt. By now you should be pretty fired up. Put your shoes on.

Get your keys and literally just run out the door, because you're SO PISSED OFF. Sprint as hard as you can for as long as you can. 'Til it hurts. 'Til you can barely breathe. This is what it feels like to be alive!

Then you can go back to being depressed, if you still feel like it. But I generally feel... not necessarily better... but alive. And "alive" is the first step.

Good luck. You're not alone in this. I'M PISSED OFF FOR YOU. RAHHH.
posted by functionequalsform at 10:11 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

This might be of no help, but MeFite corpse in the library suggested to another user to get the app Epic Win to make to do lists fun. You get a character and win pts for completing tasks, and I enjoy using it.

Also, be gentle with yourself and compassionate and patient. Call a therapist, make an appointment.
posted by discopolo at 10:33 AM on June 4, 2013

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