midlife crisis? minor Major Depression? bad habits?
February 14, 2015 4:00 AM   Subscribe

I have been struggling with lethargy, lack of interest, procrastination, and some sadness after not-so-recent transitions in my life and would like help with diagnosis and suggestions for next steps.

A couple of years ago I had a major career setback. I left that job and took on four other part-time jobs to cover it. This was just after we had our first child. Cue a year of sleeplessness and lots of disrupted schedules and habits. Now I can't seem to get back on track.

I've been down/depressed before, but this time is different. Also, my solution in the past has been to (re-)develop solid healthy habits; external factors (the jobs, the child) seem to be preventing me from doing that this time.

I feel quite aimless, even though two of those jobs are important long-term projects that I feel are worth my time. (In fact, they're both worth more time than I am currently giving them.)

Some symptoms:
  • A lot of television watching when the family is home.

  • Not as active with my child as I'd like: I tend to be the cuddler or the one that stays behind to do chores, not the 'let's go for a walk' or adventure parent.

  • About a year ago I realized I'd gained ten pounds after keeping a steady weight for many years. No further changes, but that was about when this started in earnest.

  • No desire to exercise: I probably could find the time but I can't seem to find the gumption.

  • During a recent (externally enforced) day off, I played a clicker game for eight hours.

  • Putting off work or doing lots of it at the last-minute.

  • Frequently work gives me lots of stress and anxiety (and would do so even if I didn't procrastinate.)

  • Some periods of moderate anhedonia and lack of enjoyment. (i.e. not deeply sad, just not having a good time even when that's what I'm supposed to be doing.)

  • Some caveats:
  • This has been going on for more than a year: probably about a year and a half.

  • I don't often have deep depression or despair, but sometimes, sure. Once a month, at most, and almost never for more than part of a day.

  • I have health insurance but it doesn't really cover mental health effectively.

  • Traditional therapy would be very expensive, but I could afford a short course.

  • I have the presence of mind to write this and the ability to do research. I have a good support system. I am very skeptical of antidepressants generally and in my specific case, given the evidence often shared here.

    I do not have suicidal ideation except when I ask myself whether I have suicidal ideation. :-)

    Here's my ask:
    1. What's wrong with me?
    2. What can I do about it?
    3. How do I actually do #2, given the "full catastrophe"?
    posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
    Have you had a thyroid check and a physical within the last year?
    posted by BrashTech at 4:28 AM on February 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

    To me this sounds like burnout. I think my brain would rebel against four part-time jobs plus parenting and housework, too; your life sounds like an endless to-do list. Can you quit a couple of those jobs, and give yourself time to invest in things you care most about?
    posted by jon1270 at 4:31 AM on February 14, 2015 [7 favorites]

    Can you do anything about the fact that you're working four different jobs? Maybe it's not as bad as it sounds; maybe you're able to set your own schedule and you're not as sleep deprived as I would be with any four jobs I can imagine. And on top of having in infant! That right there would go a long way to explaining the problem.

    Reading your question, it sounds like you feel trapped on a kind of hamster wheel and have already discounted a certain number of the suggestions that might be made. And you may have good reasons, but you may also be closing off possibilities. You mention that you might be able to do some traditional therapy. If you feel like you've got to do something, but you don't know what, that might be the place to start. There are probably a lot of things in your life that are causing you stress that cannot be changed right now, in light of the fact that you have a young child (young children?) but there might be some other things you can negotiate with your partner. Whom you don't mention much-- is everything OK there?
    posted by BibiRose at 4:41 AM on February 14, 2015

    One more suggestion.

    Not as active with my child as I'd like: I tend to be the cuddler or the one that stays behind to do chores, not the 'let's go for a walk' or adventure parent.

    Change this. Not every time, just once a week.

    In the same vein, are you getting outdoors? If not, start. If you are in the northern hemisphere, especially in one of the places paralyzed by winter, this is a horrible low point in the year. Spring is right around the corner now but full spectrum lights are probably on sale. Next year, be armed with one of those and with vitamin D and fish oil.

    Maybe this is just may personal reaction to your writing style, but I get the feeling that you have become used to minimizing your problems and/or feel apologetic about having them. Don't! Self-care is very important.
    posted by BibiRose at 4:50 AM on February 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

    Get your annual physical, discuss your lethargy and depression with your doctor. Most GPs will prescribe antidepressants if they're indicated and they can make a huge difference.

    It sounds to me like you need to find one job in place of the four jobs you currently have. Does your spouse work? Is that an option?

    Some of this you just have to power through. Enlist the help of your spouse, "Sweetie, if you see me sitting here, staring into space, suggest we all go for a walk or something."

    Also, it's not so terrible that you're the cuddler. That's a perfectly cromulent way to be.
    posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:23 AM on February 14, 2015

    Along with any other advice you get for therapy, meditation, exercise, work on yourself, etc., please also get a workup that includes a check of thyroid, B12, vitamin D3 level, ferritin, etc. I can't tell you how many years I lost trying to use "hacks" for depression on what turned out to lift away after a month of medically necessary supplementation.
    posted by blue suede stockings at 5:24 AM on February 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

    You might want to read the comments on this post from the "Blue"--I think they are very instructive. The article is good but the comments are , perhaps, even more illuminating. I would note that in most cases antidepressants are the same drugs used to treat GAD.
    posted by rmhsinc at 5:37 AM on February 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

    How much sleep are you currently getting? Is it on a regular schedule? Because plain old sleep deprivation could cause all of the symptoms you list.
    posted by decathecting at 6:31 AM on February 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

    Are you getting enough sleep? Seriously you have a kid and four jobs you need all the sleep you can get. If you are getting eight hours sleep is good quality and undisturbed?. Pretty much all your symptoms sound like sleep deprivation to me. A doctor's visit to rule out other causesand would be a good idea too.
    posted by wwax at 6:49 AM on February 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

    When I had little kids, I never felt 100% ready to be ON with them or for work because I never felt I had rejuvenative time OFF. Even when I did have downtime, it always felt like a time to rest before running another marathon, which made it hard for me to find it relaxing. If this might be part of your issue, can you think of something you can do that will make you feel truly rested/ invigorated? Going swimming by yourself? Taking an overnight in a hotel? Going to the gym while your partner cooks dinner? Getting a massage?
    posted by metasarah at 9:55 AM on February 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

    I just started using SuperBetter and it's making getting out of my funk pretty fun.
    posted by deliciae at 2:41 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

    You're depressed. There are a lot of great meds that can help. Get ye to your primary care doctor to talk it over. You can generally get a script for an antidepressant right from your PCP.

    Also, levering yourself off the couch for a walk around the neighborhood can have a disproportionately positive effect. Give it a try!
    posted by killdevil at 2:54 PM on February 14, 2015

    Are you the human who birthed this child? Don't rule out PPD.

    Regardless of your gender, you do sound depressed. And while therapy may be cost prohibitive, your can discuss anti-depressants with your GP; you do not need a mental health specialist.
    posted by DarlingBri at 6:05 PM on February 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

    I'd like to be counterpoint to the people who suggest you see your GP for antidepressants. Don't.

    You should consider them, but you should work at least a few times with a mental health specialist for an evaluation and ask them, if you consider antidepressants. Many GPs are happy to prescribe whatever they think you ask for, without thorough evaluation. (And in the mental health case, they lack the qualification for that evaluation. And the time)

    If you work with a therapist, I'd suggest somebody who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It's essentially an approach geared towards depression, it's considered short-term (i.e. you're not going to see a shrink for the next gazillion years :), and it's about helping you modify how you think about problems - allowing you to intercept inaccurate/unhelpful thoughts.

    But I'm also seconding the "you might need sleep" advice - a sleep deprived brain doesn't work.
    posted by groby at 10:32 AM on February 15, 2015

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