How do you get things done when depression is crushing?
March 31, 2019 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I have bipolar NOS, panic disorder, OCD, and like 11 other anxiety-related disorders. I know my depression, and this depression is like 80+% medication side effect. I've gotten off that medication. I'm in therapy and have medication management with a psychiatric nurse practitioner - I have an appointment with her in 5 weeks. But right this second, I have work that needs doing.

The absolutely, positively only thing I want to do is lay in bed and binge watch Iron Chef America. But there's these bills, and the bill people want money to pay the bills. I also have a hard deadline for a summit at which I've been asked to present. I'm really freaking good at the thing they want me to present on... when I don't have half a dozen elephants worth of depression piled on top of me.

This depression is one of the worst I've ever had. I'm safe; I'm not going anywhere. I just can't figure out how to do anything adultiful in spite of both my deadlines and my fervent when-I'm-not-insanely-depressed desire to actually do them.

Tips? Tricks? Life hacks? Help?
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
This is the point in your game of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire when it is time to phone a friend. Reach out to someone you know and show them this question. Go from there.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 11:41 AM on March 31, 2019 [6 favorites]

Tips? Tricks? Life hacks?

The main thing is that you need to get your depression effectively treated, and sounds like you're on that path. In the meantime: the only way to work on a project when depressed is to break it into very small parts that don't seem overwhelming. (Tell yourself: it doesn't matter if I want to do this right now, nor whether or not I have motivation, etc. Remind yourself that In 99% of the jobs in the world the worker's motivation is pretty irrelevant. It's just your job for now.) Whatever you need to do for your summit, break it into very small segments. Tiny, 15 minutes at a time segments. Breaking it down can itself be one of your small tasks. Good luck!!
posted by nantucket at 12:00 PM on March 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

There’s a book called Get it Done When You’re Depressed which has helped me in the past. IIRC I just downloaded the kindle version to my phone and used it short-term so I can’t vouch for it when it comes to heavier lifting long term, but worth a go. I think it was recommended here, so others have found it useful. Good luck.
posted by penguin pie at 12:01 PM on March 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

Been there! When I'm in that state, seeing people is not helpful unless they are actually taking care of the stuff that needs doing. If you're like this too, I suggest:

Deciding what is actually necessary to do in order to avoid setting your life on fire. Bare minimums here. (Since your Ask is cogent, I'm assuming you're capable of doing this. If you're not, try to get someone to help make this list.)

Asking for help with anything you can possibly delegate. This can include asking one person to try to find other people who can help.

Postponing everything possible. Such as telling the summit people that you are sick in bed (this is true!) and seeing if they can extend the deadline for you.

The rest, that you really have to do: it's going to suck and feel terrible. Accepting that weirdly makes it easier for me. It also helps to remind myself that I also feel terrible lying in bed, so dragging myself out isn't going to be THAT much worse. I continue to give myself permission to do the bare minimum... like, if I go into work, I can leave after my last meeting or whatever. That feels like a comforting self-care thing I'm giving myself.

This may not be helpful due to your anxiety, but caffeine can sometimes help.

Forcing myself to do something every day is also helpful, even if it's not really productive. Like, taking a bath.
posted by metasarah at 12:02 PM on March 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Do the work from your bed if you can. Forget about sleep hygiene best practices and shit, your body wants to be in bed so meet it half way. I have also been struggling with a monumental volume of work I have to get through while my brain is screaming at me that it would prefer I didn't. In my case it's because I'm at a toxic job and everything I do gets hen pecked and ripped down so my brain is just trying to protect me from that by urging me to do literally anything else. Things I am trying to power through: create my own dopamine hit for accomplishing something. I have an app called Forest that is like a timer but you grow a tree when you manage to not interrupt the timer. I also try to get my body as comfy as it can be because I'm also tired all the time so I try to remove any excuses my brain can find like oh I can't work now I'm too tired to hold my head up. Ok you don't have to hold your head up. I read somewhere that depression is your brain slowing everything down because there is something it wants to figure out. Or it thinks it wants to figure out. At least knowing what it's trying to do and acknowledging it & taking it seriously helps me not let it be in charge 100% of the time and do what we gotta get done.
posted by bleep at 12:17 PM on March 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

I forgot to mention something I was trying to get at which is re-associating getting the work done with positive feelings. Instead of it being associated with bad feelings like how tired it makes you feel and distracted from whatever's going on inside.
posted by bleep at 12:21 PM on March 31, 2019

Take naps. If you want to lie in bed during the day, try to sleep. Actually sleeping is more restorative than vegging. Perhaps if you want to watch Iron Chef America you can do it from a chair. After you’ve progressed from sleeping/sitting doing recreation, you might find it easier to progress to work.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:33 PM on March 31, 2019

Phone a friend for money. I have hired people to come and sit next to me and read my email and make list and literally do Google searches for me in my most dysfunctional depressions. The key for me is to identify someone non-judgemental who isn't going to freak out if I'm in a bathrobe swimming through dirty dishes and unopened mail. And, you know, crying.

Knowing someone is coming and it's NOT all down to me is a huge psychological relief when I can't function well.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:59 PM on March 31, 2019 [8 favorites]

>this depression is like 80+% medication side effect.

Call your NP and ask for an emergency appointment. Call every morning at 8:30 (or ask a friend to help with this part, maybe by calling you first). Ask to be put on a wait list in case of cancellations. If that person’s unavailable, Ask to see literally anyone at that clinic who’s positioned to adjust your meds.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:18 PM on March 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

"Break it into parts" has never worked for me hardly at all, and I find a change of scenery will at least bump me out of whatever "watching tv" idea I have, as in that thing will not be in my mind when I return home or wherever. Also, in a smaller scale, I've had good luck doing push-ups or other exercise when I notice myself going in this direction, with the added benefit of associating exercise with straightening up my day.
posted by rhizome at 2:35 PM on March 31, 2019

There’s a book called Get it Done When You’re Depressed

I was going to recommend that book as well. If I recall, it has like 18 chapters of three pages each, organized around specific concepts, so it's not one of those books that just goes "blah blah blah" for 15 pages before including one practical idea.

A few tips from me are, external accountability -- deadlines are super helpful. And putting what little energy I have to best use. Things like -- do the thing that is making me avoid my email (and all the other things that need doing). Or do the thing that keeps me from having to do things again -- use my ten minutes of bill paying tolerance not just to pay this month's bills but to set bills on autopay.

Good luck, this sounds very hard. I hope things ease up for you soon.
posted by salvia at 3:16 PM on March 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

Do you have a close enough friend or relative who can serve as a prompter/pacer/accountability partner to get the ball rolling on the most critical task(s), whether in person or online? If you don't and you're interested someone to be that person remotely, hit me up through any of the means of contact in my profile.
posted by drlith at 3:25 PM on March 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm not being cute: a **whole lot** of coffee. Or if you're prescribed stimulants for depression, call your NP and see if you can take an extra half pill. Got to fight fire with fire.
posted by 8603 at 3:32 PM on March 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

How often do you see your therapist? I have found it helpful to take my unopened bills to therapy and open and pay them there. For me the issue was a combination of anxiety, depression, and ADD, so YMMV.
posted by bunderful at 5:59 PM on March 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

When I'm having serious trouble getting anything done, breaking it into parts and rewarding myself after helps. If I want to watch TV, I need to get something done, even if it's something small before I let myself. Then I watch one episode, do one more thing that needs done and watch another episode.

It's not super productive but at least I feel like I'm making progress. It also gives me an emotional boost to do more since I've already managed to do a little bit. Caffeine does help me to get started too.
posted by stray thoughts at 6:21 PM on March 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

I used to work as an in-home social worker-type. Sometimes it can be very helpful to have someone there opening the bills, reading them out loud, doing a little triage, etc. just to get moving.

One thing I find helpful when I get stuck in a rut (I very much grok the medication-is-depressing-me), is I pick one thing—one bill to open, one page to read, etc. The anticipation is the killer for me, but once I get rolling, I can get some things done.
posted by executive_dysfuncti0n at 6:54 PM on March 31, 2019

I've suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my adult life and find that, in conjunction with medical treatment and therapy, one aspect of my Nichiren Buddhist practice really helps manage my symptoms--I chant the phrase "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" on repeat. The idea behind it is that you're aligning yourself with the functions of the universe, and I've always found this not-quite-meditative practice soothing. You can find out more about it here.

Hope that you were able to get your symptoms treated and are doing better. Best of luck to you.
posted by shelle at 11:22 AM on May 23, 2019

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