Life is awesome. I'm depressed. How do I become ok?
November 18, 2013 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I think I've been plagued by this low-grade, corrosive depression for a while now. Maybe over a year. You think, "Ah ok if I do this and achieve this and fix this in my life maybe things will be okay again." And they don't turn out that way. I've reached goals, I've exercised, I've tried CBT. I don't enjoy living. What do I do?

Everyone keeps telling me I'm lucky, and I believe it. Objectively everything is fantastic. I'm a college senior. I just accepted a job offer that I've craved for months. School is going fine. Friends and family are great. And yet life sucks. I keep telling myself, "It'll get better," but there's the hard truth that life is good and I feel awful. I go through the motions of living. There're are spots of happiness, but I have this recurring thought that eventually, whether that's two or twenty years from now, I'm going to end up killing myself. Not because life is so horrible, but because no matter what happens, the one consistency seems to be that I revert to feeling horrible, despising myself, wondering what it feels like to actually be happy to wake up. I'm just guessing that by the 6347th time I feel like that, I'll finally be fed up. If there were a way to just... stop, without hurting the people who love me, I would do it without hesitation. I have a good life. I wish it went to someone who appreciates it. I'm so tired.

I've done counseling. I've done CBT and variants. What should I do next? I exercise semi-regularly but honestly it feeds into my bulimic tendencies / straight-up bulimia. I try to suppress my eating disorder. It's more or less manageable although I fall off the wagon at times.

TLDR: Life is great, I feel like crap. What do I do? I'm open to anything. Drugs, exercise, taking leave, I don't care. I just need to stop feeling this way. Please just tell me what I need to do. "Do 30 minutes of intense, soreness-inducing cardio twice a day and bay at every full moon." Whatever works. 

Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sorry that you are going through this, know that you are not alone. Have you tried medication? I tried all the normal coping strategies for depression (like you described) and found that none of them worked nearly as well as the right medication. Go see a good psychiatrist for this, does your college have a medical centre or counseling centre? Call them and tell them exactly what you wrote here (i.e losing the will to live) and they will likely get you in ASAP.

It took a couple of tries to get the right medication for me, but once I did it was like night and day. I felt like I was actually able to get out of bed in the morning and cope with things. It raised my moods to a point where I was actually able to feel a normal range of emotions again instead of feeling hopeless. Hang in there!
posted by snowysoul at 8:57 AM on November 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Find a therapist that gets you. Try seeing more the one if the first couple of visits you feel you aren't making progress.

you can have an awesome life and be depressed. Depression isn't just sad feelings. It's a fucked up broken brain. Same as if your arm was broken. Your life could be awesome and you could have a broken arm. Same with depression. The shitty thing is that you need help because your body can't mend your brain back together like it can a bone.
posted by royalsong at 8:57 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is seriously what anti-depressant medications are for. Go to your GP or find a psychiatrist at Psychology Today and start to feeling better!
posted by chainsofreedom at 8:58 AM on November 18, 2013 [10 favorites]

Awesome by whose standards?

Eating disorders are control issues & perfectionism. Maybe you need to find your own voice. What did you LOVE when you were 12-13 years old, and how can you incorporate more of that into your life?

Also, helping others has the byproduct of helping us feel good. Is there a cause you feel deeply about? Maybe you can lead a support group for others who are coming out of an eating disorder.

Also, find another therapist. You may need to dig deeper than CBT.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:59 AM on November 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

The only thing that helped and continues to help me are anti-depressants.
CBT also helped as well - I had a great CBT therapist when I was younger that helped me learn and identify my negative thinking.
posted by KogeLiz at 9:06 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could be me from ten years ago, including the eating disorder and the belief that suicide would be inevitable. I was fairly convinced I wouldn't make it to thirty. There were times I came close.

I am now over thirty, not dead, and reasonably confident that I will keep making the choice to be not-dead for a long time to come.

Antidepressants made all the difference. There were other things that helped along the way - a therapist I liked, regular exercise, healthy friendships and relationships - but medication was the thing that made the rest of it work.

Medication may not be a silver bullet for you, but you never know until you try.

(For the record, CBT was not very effective for me when I was unmedicated. Sometimes, I couldn't convince myself that my negative thinking was untrue, and the whole process felt like a lie that didn't apply to me. The rest of the time, I was just so deeply, wordlessly sad that I couldn't find a coherent thought to work with.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:11 AM on November 18, 2013 [8 favorites]

See a specialist in eating disorders, if you're still purging or exercising to excess, your bulimia is not under control. That's not a judgment on you. An eating disorder specialist, or, if you can an intensive outpatient program (IOP) will figure out not just the lingering remnants of your ED, but also your depression. Meds may be very helpful in getting to the root of the ED. Also, you may want to try a support group.

I was very much against ALL of these things when I went in for treatment. I am on meds, have been in a support group for 5 years, I am purge free for 2 years and I am completely in remission for my depression.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:14 AM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

You need real treatment, both therapy and medication.

Your inability to stop these feelings and behaviors is not a weakness on your part, it is a mental and physical problem that needs to be addressed appropriately.

Find a therapist who works with people with eating disorders. Find a physician who understands the link between depression, OCD, and eating disorders.

Do EVERYTHING these professionals tell you to do.

Your brain is lying to you. Your judgement is impaired.

I have struggled for years with anxiety and an eating disorder. I am as close to normal as I'm going to get (I'll never be NORMAL) but boy am I functional and happy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:28 AM on November 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not to discount depression, but you are also at a very pivotal time in your life. I recently listened to this podcast about Millenials and the issues that they are facing transitioning from college to the real world. In particular, the talk by Meg Jay might be very helpful.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 10:26 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take a twenty minute, brisk walk. Every day.

(and look into meds; they really can help)
posted by notsnot at 10:28 AM on November 18, 2013

CBT sometimes doesn't work. How long did you do the CBT exercises (weeks, months, years?)and was it daily?
posted by Ironmouth at 10:49 AM on November 18, 2013

I have "treatment-resistant" depression and tried about a dozen different medications and a handful of different therapies, including CBT, some of which worked short-term, and some of which did not work at all.

For the past few months I've been doing DBT with a good therapist and it has made a huge, huge improvement in both my mood and my functioning. The difference is like infomercial-scale before-and-after ridiculous, and so I am now a fan and supporter of DBT, particularly for people who found CBT inadequate.

DBT is especially really appropriate if you have a history of disordered eating. The techniques can be really helpful in avoiding reverting to ED symptoms.
posted by Ouisch at 11:31 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Graduation, even with a job lined up, is stressful, a huge change. Instead of trying to feel lucky, try thinking about what life will be like, what your new challenges will be, ways you might address them. Some other questions" Who do you have to be perfect for? What would really happen if people saw the real you?

Antidepressants are a big help, as is competent therapy. Having a life that looks good on the outside doesn't mean you're happy. Most people who attempt suicide regret it, and are happy to have survived. Your suicidal feelings are telling you that something's wrong. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 12:27 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously. At first for me it was a really challenging (but valuable) exercise in managing negative emotions without giving in to them - being afraid to try something new, not feeling like going that day but going anyway, being worried about what people thought, getting frustrated when I couldn't do something, feeling generally upset about life but choosing not to dwell on it because the practice is too difficult. Eventually I felt more comfortable and better able to deal with the negative stuff and it helped with sleep and not feeling as awkward, physically, and so on. Give it a try.
posted by citron at 5:44 PM on November 18, 2013

Seriously consider anti-depression medicine. I've had these mental health issues since I was 18 and manage it through a slightly erratic combination of good diet, minimising alcohol, regular exercise, meditation and CBT. By erratic I mean I rarely manage to do all these things in unison but I know they're in my arsenal and can be deployed depending on how I feel and the salience of the situation.

But sometimes I'm just like you and no matter what I do or how well things are going in life, I'm just profoundly empty and worthless. Which is when meds save me.

I think of it as putting oil in the car. Or replacing the battery. My bodywork might be great, my gears in perfect working order, the petrol tank full...but I'm just not going to be able to run properly. I'll turn the key but the engine just seizes or sputters out.

Meds get me working again, they put just enough pep in my step to fire me back into life and from there I can get mentally moving again. They allow me to think straight and get things done to get me back on track that otherwise would have seemed insurmountable or impossible. They also open the door to happiness, not much, but enough to see a chink of light, something to remind me that life does indeed contain a reason or two to plod on, that I'm not completely broken.

I understand the reticence many folk show for medication but sometimes it's what a body needs to help itself.

Good luck!
posted by Caskeum at 1:18 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yoga also has changed my life. I was honestly on the verge of committing suicide due to out of control PTSD and depression. I credit developing a daily yoga practice with saving me from myself. On top of it, it has taught me to love my body for the first time in my life. Sounds like you could use that, too.
posted by corn_bread at 9:50 AM on November 19, 2013

What's happening during the spots of happiness? It could be that the depression is biasing your memory so that you can remember experiencing strong negative emotions, but forget some or even most of the times when you felt happy. You could try starting a journal where you list anything that gives you even a moment of relief. Resist the urge to qualify every entry with "but really, in general, I feel awful". You might find that you enjoy more than you realize, and you can use those lists as guides for how to take care of yourself. When you find something that makes you feel good, as long as it doesn't hurt anybody (including yourself), do that thing as often as possible and don't feel any guilt about it. You deserve to do whatever it takes to make yourself feel better.

Corollary: if you find that doing anything makes you feel bad (for instance, intense, soreness-inducing cardio twice a day sounds like it would really suck), then stop doing that thing and don't feel any guilt about it. A common depressive belief is that you don't deserve to feel good. If that's ringing a bell, the book Appetites by Caroline Knapp might be helpful.

Consider that the narrative that you don't enjoy anything and probably never will is just the depression talking and not an accurate reflection of reality. It might even be that repeating that narrative to yourself is a big part of what's keeping you depressed. Whenever you catch yourself thinking that it will never get better, try to argue against that thought as hard as you can. Tell yourself that you will get better, or at least that you don't really know what will happen in the future, and that it's very possible that depression is causing you to predict that things will be worse than they actually will be. It might feel really artificial at first, but learning to identify and argue against those depressive thoughts can be really helpful.

Finally, guilt is something that keeps a lot of people depressed. It sounds like you feel guilty because your life looks great on paper, but you're not enjoying it. That's not a moral failing, and it's not your fault. Feeling bad when things aren't actually bad is practically the definition of depression. Try writing "guilt is the enemy" on a sheet of paper and taping it to your wall. It might feel hokey, but that doesn't mean that it's not absolutely true. Never feel guilty about being depressed-- your neurochemistry is just malfunctioning at the moment.

I think it's a really good sign that you're willing to try anything. Just make sure to avoid using whatever you try as a way to validate your depressive belief that you keep trying thing after thing, but nothing works and nothing ever will. Don't let that become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may try a hundred or a thousand things, and if just one of them works, it will have been worth it.
posted by lostcosmonaut at 4:20 PM on November 19, 2013

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