I miss feeling, in general
July 12, 2015 10:09 PM   Subscribe

I feel extremely apathetic and flat. I'm being worked up for some endocrine issue. I know it makes sense to make a diagnosis before initiating treatment, but I don't know how much longer I can stand feeling so apathetic.

I feel like this has been going on for well over a year, but it's gotten to a point where it's really noticeable. For example, on days that I don't have work, I'll wake up and then actively try to fall back asleep again to pass the time because nothing interests me. My friends will invite me out and I don't feel motivated enough to put on some pants, so I just decline their invitations. Food doesn't even taste good, but I eat normal amounts of food because eating is just something to do. It took me like four attempts to finally post this AskMe because I couldn't bring myself to write it out. I'm traveling to a new city next week, which normally excites me, and I could care less. My libido has entirely disappeared to the point where I practically can't understand why anybody would ever be interested in any sexual contact (and I can chart the gradual progression of its disappearance over the past two years) and I feel like the only reason why it isn't a problem in my relationship is because I'm long-distance. I know this looks a lot like depression, but I've been depressed before and this isn't it. I'm not sad about anything, I'm not having an existential crisis, and I don't feel guilty, worthless, hopeless, stressed, or anything like that at all. I just feel flat.

I don't feel acutely upset about this, because I don't feel much of anything. But seeing myself like this is extremely disturbing, and I'm not sure what to do. It's like all of my drive for most things has just disappeared. This is entirely unlike me-- I'm a grad student at a good program, and I know that if I was like this my entire life there's no way I would be where I am now. I am still getting my work done for the most part, but I don't know how much longer I can deal with this. I don't want it to impact my work.

My doctors (I've been seen by four doctors who all are confused by my labs) are wavering between two diagnoses because my labs are coming back abnormal but nonspecific and conflicting. They don't want to treat me before they figure out what it is, because obviously these two diagnoses have entirely different approaches to treatment. On top of that, the doctor told me that one way they can diagnose me is to "wait and see if [my] symptoms progress." Which means they have to wait 3-6 months and re-check all my labs and stuff, and even then, I might not have a diagnosis. This is so frustrating that I found myself wishing for an abnormal head MRI the other day, just so that I could finally have a diagnosis in hand and move on with treatment. But it came back unremarkable, so that's that. I can't imagine living another 3-6 months like this.

I am wondering if I should be seen in psychiatry, but since I have medical issues pending diagnosis I don't know if that's really the right step; I'd much rather not take an antidepressant.

Can anybody help me with this apathy? Suggestions? Small things I can do? Perspective? I'm an otherwise-healthy female in her early twenties. I'm not overweight and never have been, even though I've gained a ton of weight recently (but not up to a weight that would be considered overweight) despite no change in food intake and activity level. I exercise, walk outside, eat lots of vegetables and fish, am a generally agreeable person. I play music and read. But I'm just going through the motions and it is terrifying to see myself like this. Help...
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The wait and see thing sounds a lot like what can happen with a parathyroid problem. Check out parathyroid.com

If that's what they're looking at, if your calcium levels have been high, there is no wait and see. It likely indicates a tumor, even if it fluctuates. My MIL had her tumors removed recently after years of the wait and see approach. If that's not what doctors are looking at then you can disregard.

Anyway. I think a therapist is a great idea. I've been seeing one during my own struggle of chronic unexplained illness and it's helped more than I can imagine. They can help you make small goals and things to remain active and positive and can discuss the pros and cons of medication.

Good luck and feel free to message me.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:26 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have zero advice for the medical part of this, but with regard to the "feeling" part my small advice is to go do something that will force you to feel anything.

Things that I can think of offhand are: getting a sports massage, going on a particularly terrifying rollercoaster, do some sort of exercise until your muscles give out. Yeah, a lot of these are feeling a physical thing, but sometimes that helps when you're like "wtf, where did my feelings go?"
posted by aaanastasia at 1:05 AM on July 13, 2015

Even if your mood shifts have been brought on by a medical condition, they're still affecting you a great deal. Therapy may be worth trying to help you address how terrifying these changes are, and it could help you get a better sense of yourself while you await treatment for the physical issues.
posted by teponaztli at 1:50 AM on July 13, 2015

I am totally on board with all three commenters so far. Definitely talk to a therapist, independent of your medical situation.

If you don't feel anything, it's probably very hard to feel grateful. But there have been many times in my life when I would have given anything to feel numb. About a year ago I ended up in the ER one night, and I was in so much pain and I was so afraid that if there had been a button to press that would have killed me on the spot, I think I would have pressed it. When they finally gave me the morphine and the numbness overtook me, it was a kind of awful bliss. People do heroin for a reason. Numbness can sometimes be far preferable to the alternative.

I think of the Star Trek movies where Data got his emotion chip. At one point they're about to face off against the Borg and Data is nattering on about how he is experiencing terror for the first time. Picard suggests that Data should disengage his emotion chip, and Data does it with a cock of his head and then he's totally in control of himself again. I've talked about that scene with some of my fellow neurotics, and we all envied the hell out of Data in that moment.

I am not trying to belittle what you're going through, or saying that being numb all the time is good. Feeling numb in life is not a good thing, and you should address it. But every day you're not in agony, that's something to be thankful for. You'll get your feelings back, and someday you may find yourself wishing you could disengage your emotion chip.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:12 AM on July 13, 2015

I recently went through a flat stage. I've been depressed before and, you are right, they are totally different things. My flat stage started after my father died. I couldn't mourn for him or share my grief with anyone because my children needed me to be strong for them. And then my son moved across the country and I couldn't show my grief for that because I had to be supportive of him. Holding it all in made me silent as death. I felt dead, almost. I could barely breathe and developed a low grade fever and asthma that would not abate. I barely spoke above a whisper. I went to an acupuncturist out of desperation. She explained that my chi had been suppressed. She focused on points to get it moving again and told me to yell, as loud as I could, as often as I could (in the car) to get it all moving again. It is working. After a year of being nearly dead, I am finding my old self again, the one that I like. So, scream. Get it all out. You don't have to feel like this.
posted by myselfasme at 6:35 AM on July 13, 2015

It may not be full depression, but this sounds a lot like low-level depression, ala dysthymia.

posted by eas98 at 6:53 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hi. I could have written some of this question! Pending medical issues that have left me an exhausted, but also apathetic (even when I have energy) shell.

One thing that seems to help me is just forcing myself, by sheer will, to do SOMETHING every morning. I literally set an alarm on my phone for whatever feels doable - 5 min, 10 min, 20 min - and do ANYTHING... load the dishwasher, vacuum, clean the bathtub, even if it doesn't really need to be done. I find that doing SOMETHING gives me a little momentum and then I'll do a little something else.

In the same vein, the days I force myself to leave the house, even to wander around Target for a bit, feel more productive and more like I am a human surrounded by other humans with feelings.

Again, I also have been depressed, and this is not depression. I normally love to read and lately will just stare at a closed book on my lap and take a nap (or just close my eyes while awake) instead. I feel your pain and will be watching this thread.
posted by raspberrE at 5:48 PM on July 13, 2015

This does sound to me like depression. Maybe a different kind of depression from what you've experienced in the past, but a kind of depression that lots of people (including smart, talented, high-functioning, successful people) experience.

I'm not saying to stop pursuing other diagnoses and physical causes. But don't rule out mental health concerns just because you're not sad. And don't let your doctors rule out those causes either just because the flat affect is a new symptom for you.
posted by decathecting at 6:24 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

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