Am I depressed or discontented with life in general?
March 26, 2014 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Lengthy, but I would so appreciate helpful perspectives. For some time there have been certain 'unhappy' factors in my life that I have been able to manage - but almost a week ago something seemed to trigger crisis mode and I have felt very low and almost completely unable to shake the feeling since.

To give you a brief background over the last four years: I am in my early 20s and met a great guy at uni during my first year there. I quickly fell in love with him (felt I had a connection with him that I haven't really shared to the same extent with most people) but he was involved in an accident and died suddenly. I was devastated but determined to finish my degree, although I no longer felt genuine enthusiasm for academia as I had before - I saw it as a necessity for getting jobs in the future and was determined to go travelling after I graduated (I have always had a bit of a travel bug). I wanted to travel and I thought if I could get through the next 2 years left of uni, I could go.

Around this time I met a guy who I was in a relationship with for 2 years. Things were good at first, but then old feelings started to creep back in and I had to go for a few months of counselling (trigger: boyfriend was in a decent band + touring and I seemed to have abandonment issues stemming back to past guy dying in an accident/permanently abandoning me). I felt better quite soon and felt a fog had been lifted.

But last year a few things happened. My grandad (who was more like a father figure) was diagnosed with cancer and around the same time I developed unexplained foot pain. This pain became more intense and started to disable my life - I could no longer go dancing with friends or if I did, would pay with agonising pain + inability to move the next day. I had countless hospital appointments, physio - you name it. It has not gone away & now I live with it daily. Within an hour of walking around shops at a normal pace I will be in bring-tears-to-your-eyes pain and have to sit. I feel like a pensioner.

So, this affected me and started to affect me relationship too. My boyfriend wasn't very supportive of - couldn't really cope with my inability to do an awful lot and combined with other facts we broke up. I had loved him a lot. A couple of months after this a close friend admitted to strong feelings for me + I was hesitant to enter into anything again so soon. But I was in a bad place, needing supported and he took my mind off things. We talked about what we wanted to do post-uni and it turns out, had both been making plans to go travelling to the same location! He suggested right then and there we go together and feeling oddly spontaneous I agreed.

But my grandad's illness prevented me from going anywhere and I got a job post-uni that I really enjoyed - amazingly my boyfriend said he would stay here in the country until that year was up. During these months my grandad got more ill, I helped care for him and he eventually passed away in December. I helped plan and attend the funeral and was back at work in a few days. Then I got promoted, but quickly found overwhelmed by the amount of things I had to do. We are currently understaffed and I feel a lot of pressure was being put on me as a result.

Despite the good work I have been doing lately, my boss had a real go at me and something snapped inside. I came home feeling hopeless and the feeling hasn't really shifted. I will sit and look at cover letters for potential new roles and while before I would easily be motivated to write a few in one day, I stare at it then shut the pc down while crying! I actually wanted to take a different career route and am drifting further and further away from it.

Furthermore, I snapped at my boyfriend last week and this led to him saying he isn't sure about the relationship anymore. He begrudges small things like, at the moment, we work over an hour away from each other + when he recently came to visit me he wanted to jump into bed together. Meanwhile I had to get food shopping and needed his help (because of foot injury) - he eventually said he wishes how things were when I was more 'carefree' when we first met. How can I be? Sometimes he is incredibly supportive and at other times clueless. And it hurt me very much to think he could so easily consider disposing of me.

Anyway I am thinking about going to see the doctor, but I'm not sure what to say. I'm not even exactly sure what is wrong. Yesterday, I basically had dinner then lay in bed unable to do anything for the rest of the evening. Today, I feel less bad but still tired and not very motivated. Thoughts? (if you can make any sense of this muddle!?)
posted by Kat_Dubs to Human Relations (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Based on what you've said, the answer is "the likelihood you are depressed is definitely high enough to make going to a doctor a good idea. Please go to a doctor."

If you go to a doctor and say "I think I might be depressed. I'm not even exactly sure what is wrong. I feel unmotivated", phrases taken from this question, then I think that would be a good conversation opener for this; the doctor can take it from there. Very, very best wishes as you work to feel better. Please do go see a doctor.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:15 PM on March 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well, you have a two-pronged problem and you may need a two pronged approach.

To get the conversation started with your GP, take a Depression Screening Test. It's a jumping off point for a discussion, not a definitive testing of depression or how depressed you are or anything like that.

Your GP may prescribe a small dose of an anti-depressant for you to try. Or he/she may suggest other methods before drugs. Be open to whatever is said. Ask if you can write notes, or take a good friend into see you.

Now, being physically in pain will lead to depression, so you still need to get that foot looked at. Something is wrong and it needs to be fixed. So, you need to advocate for extended testing, more physio, accupuncture, whatever.

Also, depressing things make one depressed. Death of loved ones, relationship woes, and other issues may contribute to being depressed. Grief is a real thing and if you're not processing it, but instead avoiding it, it can manifest as depression, anxiety and other unpleasant things. You may want to look into grief counseling or a support group.

As for your job, people lose it, and it stings and makes one feel like shit when a boss unloads on you, especially if you've screwed something up.

If this is a regular thing, then it makes sense to start looking for a new position. If it's a one off, don't be surprised if your boss apologizes to you.

You are very young and if your romantic relationships are more trouble than they're worth, perhaps it's best to be single for awhile. Make new friends, connect more deeply with others.

Transitioning from school to a job and real-world responsibilities is HARD! Especially with what you've been shouldering.

Give yourself a break. Tell your BF that it make be a good time to take a break from the relationship. Be friendly, but perhaps dial back your contact. Concentrate on your health, then your job first.

You have to be 100% okay with being by yourself, before you can attract a great relationship. It sounds like you've fallen into relationships from need, rather than attraction. That's okay, it happens. But really learn to stand on your own. Love your life first, then you can start bringing other people into it.

Take good care of yourself and don't settle for anything other than the best!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:16 PM on March 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

You need to see a therapist (not just a doctor, although a check-up couldn't hurt anything). You should tell him/her exactly what you've written here - hell, maybe print this page and show it to your therapist. As for not knowing exactly what's wrong...that'll be the job of the therapist. Your symptoms (Yesterday, I basically had dinner then lay in bed unable to do anything for the rest of the evening. Today, I feel less bad but still tired and not very motivated.) sound like depression and need to be addressed by a professional.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:16 PM on March 26, 2014

Chronic pain often leads to depression. It's more than not being able to do what you used to do, it eats away at a person's spirit. I think you need to move "dealing with foot pain" to the top of your list. See a new round of doctors, a pain specialist and maybe a therapist (just on the chance that the foot pain might be related to the grief and stress in your life).
posted by saradarlin at 12:29 PM on March 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

I would love it if you could get a complete blood count done. Some of your symptoms sound like normal reaction to stress and loss, and some of them sound like they could stem from or be exacerbated by any number of disorders, including thyroid problems, autoimmune disorders, or gout (gout isn't an old-people's disease).

I think therapy is a really good choice, too, in order for you to be able to work with the various losses that you've experienced recently, including the loss of your free mobility.

Please do take a multi-vitamin that includes both iron and a healthy dose of the b's. Both of those can really make a difference with energy and outlook.

Take good care.
posted by janey47 at 12:53 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get your thyroid, iron, and vitamin D levels tested.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:57 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the foot pain, it sounds like you hit a dead-end with why it happened or how to fix it, but it's not clear from a question whether you've gotten any professional advice on how to live with it.

If you're unable to exercise, that can contribute to depression, so even if walking and dancing are out, maybe there are other exercises or ways to modify exercises.

If you're unable to get out and about as much as you'd like, that can contribute to depression, so maybe you can get professional advice on assistive devices, like a cane or a scooter, or something else I can't even think of because there are professionals to help you navigate this hopefully temporary disability.

wanted to jump into bed together. Meanwhile I had to get food shopping and needed his help (because of foot injury)

I feel you because I have totally been there, and it has damaged my relationships. I get really caught up in my to-do list, and when my partner is suddenly like, let's put all that aside, I have the hardest time shifting gears. That being said, sex is great for natural pain relief, and it doesn't have to take so long that it throws off your whole schedule. If it's possible to tell the bf, when you get here, sex is the first thing on the schedule, and the second thing on the schedule is that thing I need help with, it might turn out to be a win-win.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:09 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to say to you that considering the things you've had to deal with, you've done really really well. Finished college, responsible job, cared for your grandfather, been a responsible and supportive family member, all the while dealing with grief and physical pain.

I agree with Ruthless Bunny that if relationships are too much like hard work, give yourself a break from them.

Yesterday, I basically had dinner then lay in bed unable to do anything for the rest of the evening. This is some people's whole life, you know? You've had tremendous get-up-and-go for this to be an anomaly in your life. From everything you've said you have good reason to be wilting now, in need of physical and emotional patching up. I hope you find real practical help on both fronts, so you can get back to being the vital, dynamic, capable, empathetic person you reveal yourself as in this question.
posted by glasseyes at 2:38 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry about your grandfather, and about your boyfriend who died. You've experienced great trauma. It's part of life, but it can also generate depression, or depression can just happen, and either way, it's a real illness, and you deserve to get treatment and feel better.

Yes, you should go to your doctor. Here are some pages that may help you understand a potential diagnosis of depression:

Am I depressed
WebMD Depression screening:
Sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
Loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
Major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite
Insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
Physical restlessness or sense of being rundown that is noticeable by others
Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
Problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt
posted by theora55 at 3:22 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, you sound like you are depressed and should go see a doctor. As others have pointed out, depression is often caused by chronic pain, the death of a beloved family member, chronic stress at work. The combination of these three things plus all your relationship problems make it even more likely.

Depression isn't necessarily a lifelong curse. It's perfectly normal to develop situational depression in response to things like those you have mentioned. So don't start worrying that this is necessarily going to last forever.

If you like and trust your GP and feel comfortable talking to them, then yes, print out your question and use that as something to talk to in case you get stuck. Even though I've had many conversations with my GP about depression, I always feel awkward at first but she has a way of putting me at my ease so that I'm able to talk more freely. Any good GP with a modicum of people skills should be able to do the same.

If you do wind up going down the medication path, just be aware that they are a tool. Everyone has a certain amount of resilience but when life stacks lots of things against you, sometimes you need help. Anti-depressants are one of those tools.

Also re your foot pain, do they have any idea what is actually wrong with it? If you haven't already seen a podiatrist specifically, I would give that a go. Foot stuff can be quite complicated and it's worth seeing a specialist.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:36 PM on March 26, 2014

Another data point re: foot pain. Believe it or not, it could be compression of a nerve in your back. (ask me how I know.) Constant, unrelenting pain can also trigger depression, as others have noted. Get your back checked out, and get screened for depression.

I spent much of my 30's severely depressed, in and out of hospitals. Therapy and the right combo of meds have saved my life.

Good luck!
posted by jrchaplin at 7:00 PM on March 26, 2014

Your reaction to all of this is normal and okay. You are overwhelmed on many fronts. Sometimes it is simply nice to hear that how you are feeling is not because you need to "toughen up" or do xyz differently. It is what it is. You are experiencing grief and pain. This is okay, and it is okay to be frustrated and overwhelmed.

You need to be gentle with yourself now, because you are the most reliable source of kindness you will get in life. SOs, as you know, can be fickle. So don't feel bad for crying when you feel like crying, or feeling abandoned when you've been abandoned. Your boyfriend is showing you the truth about himself right now, and whatever happens you need to be a firm advocate for your own needs and healing first, before his. If he doesn't see how necessary that is, he may not be good partner material for you. It may be a hidden blessing to break up and have that space open for someone else.

Practically, try making a list of tasks you can do for yourself that will make your situation better (short term or long term). That could mean finding a therapist and making an appointment, or doing a little chore like tackling a pile of clutter that has been bothering you, or reading a book you've been wanting to read. Small things and big things - as long as they are good for you. If you try a task and are overwhelmed, stop and pick something lighter. Do things on that list as your energy level permits and cross them off when accomplished. Add more good things. Tape it to the mirror in your bathroom or somewhere that keeps it fresh in your mind. Don't let it become a "should" list or guilt trip yourself about what is or isn't done. Keep it positive. Accomplishment tends to breed well-being. Let things happen as the timing is right.

You might really like this book - Constructive Living. I would also recommend reading the Dear Sugar archives. Pema Chodron is excellent.

The good news is that you are going to come out the other end of this as a better person. I can pretty much guarantee it. You will be stronger and kinder and have a better understanding of yourself. Sometimes you gotta think about the long game, because the short game is just going to suck for a while no matter what. Good luck to you!
posted by griselda at 8:31 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Once upon a time, I was diagnosed wth depression. My life was okay - good boyfriend, fantastic kids, great family and friends, a lousy job, but I just wasn't happy, ever. I quit my job and started crying, and didn't stop for weeks. The boyfriend eventually convinced me to see a counsellor, she referred me to a GP, he offered either medication or I could try exercise, better diet (I'm gluten-intolerant and had been scoffing stuff I shouldn't), and a healthy dose of Vitamin D via sunlight.

I chose the latter, and it worked.

Then a couple of years later, I nursed my dying grandmother for months, we were evicted because our rented home was sold, I was single again after the boyfriend turned out to be not-so-sweet-after-all, I had a skin cancer cut out of my head, the doc hit an artery, and then when it finally healed it had to be cut out again because he didn't get it all the first time. Now when I touch my temple, where the cancer was, I can feel it in the back of my head. Nerves are weird.

I went back to see the original GP (the skin-cancer guy had left town) and he took my hands in his and said gently, "you are situationally depressed. Your life sucks. No wonder you're down. I can give you anti-depressants, or you can do what you did before, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, gardening, etc".

It worked.

Definitely see your doc and tell him how you feel. But also make sure you take time for yourself. Sit in the sunshine. Smell flowers. Look at stars. Go to a playground and laugh at the cute kids who act like fruit loops. Take pleasure in small things, because they add up to cancel out the bad things, and will improve your mental health if you are situationally depressed.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:55 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I could have written your question (with a few details different, of course) - chronic foot pain, relationship trouble, etc. I'm so sorry for all the things you are dealing with. I probably don't have much new to add, but I did want to say that it took me a long time to accept that it's okay to take antidepressants, even for situational depression. It's not a weakness. And, after months and months of struggling and watching everything spiral out of control, it was *the* thing that made all the difference. It didn't fix the situational issues in my life (like, my back and foot still flare up and cause me pain), and it works best in combination with talk therapy, but it made me better able to think about them in a more measured way. It made me able to get out of bed and not constantly sob, not feel as if my sadness was a huge ball rolling along uncontrollably outside of me. And I am on a very very small dose, with (thankfully) very minimal side effects.
You may not need meds, of course, but it is definitely worth investigating. It's okay to ask for help.

(And don't give up trying to figure out what's wrong with your foot! Dear lord that is painful. But I hope it gets better.)
posted by bookgirl18 at 6:30 AM on March 27, 2014

You are allowed to see a doctor and even start therapy if you are not "officially" depressed.

Please seek help. Maybe you need foot surgery and grief counseling. I don't know. Seek help and get professional opinions on your mental and physical health. Take advantage of the options you have as a member of the modern world who has access to health care!

Good luck.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:57 AM on March 27, 2014

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