Life After Depression?
June 16, 2014 9:52 AM   Subscribe

My depression medication is working, I feel better than I can remember ever feeling... and I have no clue how to deal with it! Once your brain chemistry is taken care of, what comes after?

***I am looking for a new therapist; my insurance changed two or three months ago and I had to stop seeing my old one, who was only kinda helping, anyway.***

I've had issues with low self esteem and depression off and on since I can remember. I did CBT a while ago, which really helped me, but the underlying feelings were more or less still there. I got SUPER unhappy this past winter, which led to me getting on Prozac, which starting around February led to, holy shit, me feeling just so amazingly great that I can hardly believe it. Not in a "high off my ass" way, but in a "generally content with life and with myself in a way I didn't think possible" way. I honestly can't remember ever feeling like this.

Great! Only, a literal lifetime of NOT being a happy person has left me totally unprepared for this. I find myself having trouble developing new, good habits, even though I now feel like I finally have the energy to do that if I could only get myself started. I want to take up old hobbies and make new friends and take better care of myself and all this shit, and I no longer feel like that stuff is impossible, but I just sort of... don't know how to do it. I still find myself falling back on old, time-waste-y habits which I developed to cope with my depression, only now they just leave me feeling antsy.

So how do I take advantage of this newly chemically balanced brain of mine, and start using it in the way that a happy and well-adjusted person would use it? How did you change your life after successfully getting on antidepressants?
posted by showbiz_liz to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
1. Make a list of things you want to do.

2. Order it, loosely, by priority.

3. Start attacking things based on the list.

4. Rebuild list regularly.

There is no 5.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:56 AM on June 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

First, good for you! That's good news.

Go slowly. This burst of energy may fade, so don't set yourself up with a bunch of commitments that you will shame yourself about if you let them go as your life fills up.

Consider journaling, if you're not already, for like fifteen minutes a day as a way to reveal some of your inner desires that you might want to spend some of this newfound energy and joi de vivre on.

If you don't already have one, pick up an athletic practice of some kind, whether it be running or yoga or a martial art or tennis, I dunno, but something to a) burn off some of your energy in a healthy way and b) get your brain producing endorphins on its own, and c) build or improve your base level of fitness because that's something we could all use anyway. Go slowly with this, too, at first, for a whole lot of reasons outside the proper scope of this question.

Be very mindful about what you choose to spend your time on. If, for instance, introspection is a part of your mental habit that feeds into your depression, take care not to spend too much time doing things that are introspective, at least at first, until you have built up a healthy new mental structure for yourself. Don't, e.g., spend a lot of time working on your memoir about all the things that make you sad. You can tackle those topics in small doses until you're ready to take bigger bites.

Try a lot of things and notice what makes you happy, but be careful not to mistake familiarity with happiness. Unfamiliar is probably good for you right now, as long as you feel supported and safe.

Again, good for you.
posted by gauche at 10:03 AM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Someday I am going to get around to writing that "Your Handbook For Life After Depression" book that I remember wanting at that stage you're at right now. No one really talks about how mind-boggling it is. Honestly, it was easier to adjust to leaving home to go to college, or graduating college to start my working life. At least there are some roadmaps for that stuff!

Lacking that book, I'm going to suggest that you start off easy and maybe with a bit more external structure than you will need eventually. Intead of picking up six hobbies at once, find one club or class you can join. Decide to teach yourself one new recipe a week, or to exercise three days a week, or something else quantifiable, and then do that thing. Make a list of a few basic self-care things and get into the habit of doing those things regularly; when you've got those down, you can expand.

Keep a list somewhere of all the other great ideas you have of things you want to do, so you can add things into your routine slowly, but don't overwhelm or overbalance yourself now by doing ALL THE THINGS at once.

You're, hopefully, building an awesome platform here on which to slowly grow the rest of your life. You don't have to do it all today, even though it may kind of feel like you have only this window and have to do EVERYTHING before the black cloud settles back in.

Journalling about how you feel right now is a really good idea. Personally, one of the most valuable things I've learned over time is how to be a good judge and observer of my own mental state. These days I know what a temporary mood slip versus a resurgence of depression feels like, I know what helps to re-settle me, and I know when those things aren't working and I have to go to my doctor and stop the backslide in its tracks. Vigilance over your own moods is a lot harder when you're in the depths of the despair; it's easier to really get to know what it's like where you are now, and how to stay there.
posted by Stacey at 10:11 AM on June 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Journalling about how you feel right now is a really good idea. Personally, one of the most valuable things I've learned over time is how to be a good judge and observer of my own mental state. These days I know what a temporary mood slip versus a resurgence of depression feels like, I know what helps to re-settle me, and I know when those things aren't working and I have to go to my doctor and stop the backslide in its tracks

THIS. I have never been good at things like "mindfulness" or meditation, because in my family pain should be numbed and discomfort must be run away from! And so even when the depression took off thanks to meds, I was left with many less-than-optimum ways of coping with stress.

I haven't taken up meditation, but my own form of "mindfulness" is slowly learning to pay attention when I do something destructive or unhelpful; maybe not in the exact moment, but after. Instead of erasing it from memory as shameful or vowing to change, I just look at it. What was driving me? How did I feel? How did I feel afterwards? And then I try to remember it, and hold on to that memory next time the urge comes. "Oh, this again. I remember this. It doesn't work really well. Maybe I can find a better thing to do." It's not a 100% thing but it is having a real effect on me, and definitely keeps me from feeling helpless against my own destructive patterns.

And yes, definitely I keep an eye out for real depression instead of just a bad day. Way too easy to slide down that hill.
posted by emjaybee at 10:25 AM on June 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

nting Stacey.

Get your healthy routine down. Not a crazy one you can't keep up with....

But like:

-go for a walk/work out 3x a week.... make specified days

-learn 3 healthy recipes, meals you love, for me that is spaghetti bolognase, salmon, grilled chicken and veggies.... easy things you can eat and remind yourself are healthy and you are nourishing yourself by making and eating them.

-see someone/anyone socially at least once, preferably twice, a week.

-get into the habit of reading before bed.

Those 3 things keep me from dipping into the horrible pit of depression time and time again!

And lists of things I want/ want to accomplish are incredibly wonderful for me! Definitely do that, I don't journal, but I do LIST!
posted by misspony at 10:29 AM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Transitions by William Bridges has some great information about, well, transitions and how to deal with them productively. There's a nice summary of Bridges' model here. I like the book because it emphasize the importance of the stage you're in now, which he calls "The Neutral Zone," or the space between the old you and the new you; this stage can feel empty and disorienting, but it's also an amazing opportunity for dreaming and growth if you don't rush it.
posted by jaguar at 10:30 AM on June 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

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