How to take care of yourself in "these times"?
June 13, 2020 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Should I see a therapist or can I do something else that might be of some benefit?

This is embarrassing and self-involved but I'm desperate. I have depressed feelings that started with Covid quarantine. I would never harm myself. I intellectually know that my feelings are temporary but I can't seem to shake these feelings of inertia. I'll use bullet points in an effort not to drone on.

1. Quarantine as a concept is fine. I'm pro-public health, yet it's affecting my mental health. Or maybe I think it's Covid and it's something else. I have no stressful feelings toward the virus.
2. I'm not an overly social person so I don't know why this has me down. I usually enjoy staying home and being in my own world.
3. Before Covid I went to the movies, the occasional pub trivia, a yoga studio, and met a friend once a month or so. Why is this shaking me? Why do I care? I'm financially okay and healthy. I started doing yoga indoors two weeks ago (probably dumb but benefits outweigh risk). I haven't seen any friends accept once on a hike.
4. My depressed feelings started two weeks post-quarantine.
5. I am not a fear-based person. I'm not afraid of dying or contracting Covid. I don't know why I'm depressed.
6. I have no desire to do anything.
7. In these cases someone might say "Reach out to a friend". I can't think of a friend I would like to reach out to right now, or one who might be interested in talking with me. I have a hard time "reaching out".
8. I exercise daily -- brisk 45-minute walks 3 or more days a week, bike rides and weekly yoga. I work five days a week and have interaction with lots of people. I am on my feet all day and moving. I still feel like life is pointless and there's no joy.
9. I want to see a therapist but I think it might be unnecessary because I know I'm thinking irrationally and my thoughts aren't real. I know what to do yet I have no desire to do it. I actually don't know what to do because the usual tips and tricks don't bring me any satisfaction and I don't have a desire to do them -- self-care beyond exercise, meeting a friend, etc. I usually like beauty products and doing skincare and wearing lipstick and such but I don't see the point when I wear a mask every day.
10. I also think since I've grown as a human (ha) therapists aren't going to be able to help me. I am wary of seeing a therapist because one of the last ones I saw many moons ago gave me a family fun sheet to come up with fun family activities. I'm thinking -- I have PTSD and your solution is family fun? (I don't know if I have or had PTSD. I diagnosed myself.) Maybe she had the right idea. Maybe I do need some fun. I did have one effective therapist who I saw weekly for about 12 weeks. She helped me a lot several years ago. She is now retired. I saw her for shame and family problems. I'm no longer shame-based, I'm only depressed or something else. I don't know. I feel like I'm getting dumber by the day.
11. In the last few years I had a fairly good run of doing okay with life. Not close to perfect but now I'm really depressed and life seems like seems like I'm in some sort of nightmare inertia scenario where I'm waiting to die.
12. There is so much personal and collective suffering in our world. It has me depressed but I can still get out of bed and go to work. I'm on time. I do my job well. I sleep well and have no sleep disturbances. I don't drink alcohol.
13. Nothing is worth doing. Today, my mother wanted to bring over cupcakes that she is testing for her coworkers (a party they are having) and I begged off and said I was on a diet. I don't want to see anyone and besides my parents can trigger me and there is unfolded laundry on the kitchen table and I don't feel like running around cleaning so she can visit. I am exhausted from working all week. I also nap daily-- to escape my head.
14. I have feelings of being unseen or unknown. I'm not sure I matter to anyone and this usually doesn't bring me stress. Because intellectually I know I'm worthy as a human with or without notice from others, but I'm still not sure if people care about me. I'm not an interesting person. This isn't fair of me because I haven't been caring about others or reaching out to them either.
15. I feel numb, spaced out, and disconnected. I don't see the point. My husband and I have similar personalities where we will read the internet for hours and we will do the same tomorrow night. He reads Twitter and I read things that try to dissect my personality and find out what's wrong with me. I want someone or something to help me. I know I have to help myself. I feel like I'm too old for this nonsense. I feel so immature and dumb for feeling this way. There is so much suffering and my complaints seem petty, needy, and stupid.

Have you been in this state? What are some ideas to help myself?
posted by loveandhappiness to Human Relations (15 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I feel so immature and dumb for feeling this way. There is so much suffering and my complaints seem petty, needy, and stupid.

Depression is God’s great joke on mankind. It is the only disease that makes you feel like you deserve to have it.

Well you don’t. Find yourself a therapist and work though it.

Also despite the fact that you are not hiding under your table, you have rearranged your entire life around not getting the coronavirus and not giving it to other people. Even without fear that’s a heavy responsibility to bear. You might cut yourself a break — just quarantine alone is very hard on people, quarantine to avoid playing a part in a worldwide pandemic is quite a lot to shoulder.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:05 PM on June 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

The point of a therapist sometimes is to give you a sounding board that is actually professionally trained to help when possible. Yes! A therapist will be able to help you. Telehealth these days is as easy as clicking a link. I've been seeing my therapist online since it all began, and though he's not "the best," he's doing a pretty good job of helping me see what's going on with me.

Fact is, I understand what you're going through, and so do a lot of other people. I had a huge public-facing project dissolve into nothing because of COVID, and so I'm in mourning. I'm grieving. I realized that last night and dissolved into tears while watching Space Force. Yeah.
posted by RedEmma at 1:08 PM on June 13, 2020

Hi! First of all, sharing compassion - I totally hear you.

It sounds like you want to see a therapist but that you're being hard on yourself and think that "I should be stronger/smarter/more independent than this, I can handle this alone, I don't need a therapist."

I want to reframe seeing a therapist - it's like seeing a massage therapist. Massages do hurt but they also feel soo good! The way you feel sore and achey is a good kind of sore/achey. A good therapist that fits with you can also feel the same way (I see a therapist), in that they can help you work through and understand yourself. So I'd say: "Treat yourself -- go see a therapist!"
posted by many more sunsets at 1:15 PM on June 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I want to see a therapist but I think it might be unnecessary because I know I'm thinking irrationally and my thoughts aren't real. I know what to do yet I have no desire to do it. I actually don't know what to do because the usual tips and tricks don't bring me any satisfaction and I don't have a desire to do them -- self-care beyond exercise, meeting a friend, etc.

I promise I'm not trying to play gotcha here: you contradict yourself repeatedly in just these couple of sentences. You know what to do, you don't know what to do, you just don't want to do it, it doesn't bring you pleasure when you do it. I am not saying this because I think you are lying or being deceitful in any way. There have been lots of times in my life when I found I could not express my inner state to people without those kinds of contradictions. Usually that has meant that there is something I know about my inner state I'm unwilling to accept as a fact in my world. That frequently resulted in a large amount of thrashing that was very painful to me.

If you think you hurt you hurt. You might be wrong about the cause of the pain but it's impossible to be mistaken about the presence of the pain itself. What I took away from what you wrote is that it hurts a lot right now in your world. That sucks. You are not obligated to pretend it doesn't hurt just because you don't feel like you can explain why it hurts in language that you think will be taken seriously. One thing that therapists have done for me is to help me find a language for how I'm hurting that I'm willing to take as seriously as I should. One might be able to do that with you now. I encourage you to try
posted by PMdixon at 1:17 PM on June 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

The fact that you're depressed is more important than the question of why, but I'm guessing you need more time with people than you've been able to have recently. I'm an introvert, though not as much of an introvert as you are. I love time alone, but I've noticed that when I'm alone for too long my head gets weird. I don't necessarily feel lonely, just not right. This is alleviated by time with other humans.

As far as reaching out to other humans - I find this gets harder and harder the more I need to do it. When I'm happy, it's very easy to text someone and say hello. When I'm mildly bummed, it feels okay to text a friend and say that I'm mildly bummed and would like to talk. When I'm really depressed? It seems impossible. If nothing else, reach out with a short text to ask how one of your hiking buddies is doing. You don't necessarily have to tell them you're depressed, it could help just to catch up a bit.

But the most important thing is probably to go ahead with the therapy. It's a good idea to try a few different therapists but also to give them a few chances in those first few visits when you don't know each other yet and they're still learning about you and what works for you. Sometimes I grit my teeth and try the ridiculous exercises, sometimes I just tell them that I don't see how it would help me. Either they give me a good explanation, or we come up with something else.
posted by bunderful at 2:08 PM on June 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I read things that try to dissect my personality and find out what's wrong with me.

Sounds like the kind of thing that a dialog with a trained professional could help.
posted by Splunge at 2:15 PM on June 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Depression sucks, and it is very draining. I can tell I'm depressed if I use the word "shit" to describe myself.
posted by puddledork at 2:49 PM on June 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Some depressions are very biological. Since depression is new for you (I assume) and doesn't seem to be logically tied to events (even though these events can be depressing for many people) I would seriously consider talking to your doctor about trying an anti-depressant. It takes a few weeks to work but can be much faster than talk therapy.

As a rule of thumb, antidepressants work faster (a few weeks to start getting a benefit), therapy is better at preventing relapse but each person is different. Or you may find that after you start the antidepressant, the idea of talking to a therapist makes more sense.
posted by metahawk at 3:13 PM on June 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Therapy is great, and it sounds like you’ve got some history of a positive therapeutic experience. You should pursue therapy again if you’re interested. Honestly, though? You sound like you have a whole heap of insight into your thoughts and feelings, and for me depression wasn’t something I could talk my way out of, not even with a gifted therapist. Have you considered trying an antidepressant? This is something your family doctor can prescribe. I wish you the best.
posted by little mouth at 3:13 PM on June 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

You are being so hard on yourself, even on your healthy decision to start doing yoga indoors — something which is so far from dumb I don’t even understand your parenthetical.

A therapist can help you identify and break out of these negative thought patterns. Please seek help.
posted by shb at 3:27 PM on June 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am super introverted - I like to be at home, I like to do home things, I don't like meeting people, and while I love my friends, being around them for more than an hour or so feels exhausting.

But I'm used to the little things I do that require small hits of human interaction. I go to a drive-thru for coffee; I go pick up a prescription; I go to the grocery store; I chat briefly with the lady at the pool supply shop; I say hi to people in the park when I walk my dog.

None of these individually are a big deal, but during the height of the lockdown when I couldn't do any of them, I felt seriously stir-crazy.

Whatever your personal level of ideal human interaction is - going below it for long periods of time is going to suck. You've probably landed at it through trial and error, and it's part of your mental/emotional health maintenance routine whether you think of it that way or not. Suddenly not having that is easily enough to throw a person way off balance.

Sorry to focus on just this one thing, but I wanted to make this point - if you can't do the things that work to keep you balanced, then you're going to be imbalanced -- of course you are! And therapy is exactly the kind of thing that works for that kind of imbalance; it can help you figure out how to replace the things you can't have until you can have them again.
posted by invincible summer at 5:16 PM on June 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I don't know why this has me down

Why is this shaking me? Why do I care?

I don't know why I'm depressed.

I haven't been caring about others or reaching out to them either.

I feel so immature and dumb for feeling this way. There is so much suffering and my complaints seem petty, needy, and stupid.

You are being so hard on yourself. Please see a therapist!

Your concerns stemming from having a bad therapist in the past are valid. But remember that all therapists are different. The goal of therapy is to make you feel better! And if it doesn't, you can leave anytime and find a new therapist!

(What you're saying here reminds me a lot of me, and therapy has helped me a lot.)
posted by mekily at 8:25 PM on June 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for answers. I appreciate your time and advice.
posted by loveandhappiness at 5:37 AM on June 14, 2020

Would definitely echo others on trying a therapist -- when my thoughts didn't make sense to me, that's when I knew I needed one most -- and considering anti-depressants. There are other medical possible solutions too; I found the courage to try an anti-depressant, and when the benefit/side effect ratio for the first two was off, my psychiatrist had me take a (specific kind of) genetic test. It revealed that my salt channels were hyperactive (or something), and the doctor prescribed something to inhibit them -- sort of like an SSRI, but without the side effects and emotional modulation. Didn't fix everything, but then there are other factors at play for me that I haven't addressed.

If you'd like to try stuff on your own instead, I didn't see meditation suggested above. There are also a lot of smartphone apps geared toward mindfulness/etc. I don't know whether they'd make a difference for someone clinically depressed. And of course volunteering can help; there are a number of options for virtual volunteering.

A couple of other different suggestions: You write a lot about pointlessness and other existential issues. It might or might not help to explore philosophy, via whatever medium you enjoy most. Similarly, reading fiction helps me feel less alone when I stumble upon the right novel; you could even seek out some on the topic at hand. And I'm nowhere near expert enough to be formally recommending it, but I've read a lot of accounts lately of people microdosing (mushrooms, LSD, or other substances) with success -- some of them using it to replace anti-depressants. Obviously, if you were interested, you'd want to do a good amount of research before making any decision.

I wish you all the luck, and also echo others who wish you could be less hard on yourself. The brain is preposterous -- I often think we'd be better off as single-celled organisms -- and hard enough to corral when there *isn't* a pandemic; I could point you to several pieces by scientists and doctors explaining why it's had weird/unexpected/unpredictable effects on a lot of us. Anyway, meditation could help with that too -- sitting and focusing on breathing, allowing yourself whatever thoughts intrude, observing them as if outside your body, without judgment, and letting them pass as you return to focus on breathing.
posted by troywestfield at 12:06 PM on June 14, 2020

Also, just want to say that the pandemic is a major stressful event for the entire planet. This is an unprecedented world event. The mental health fallout is going to be felt for years. This situation, the fact that we are all, to some degree, in danger, and everything about our lives is not the same and we don't know when it will be semi-normal again -- these are hard realities for most human beings.

So if you're feeling off, or depressed, or less joyful about life, or whatever you're feeling, don't underestimate the impact of Covid here. It's a reality that permeates our lives, even if you don't think it does. And it just means you're human.

But seeing a therapist and getting some support for however you're feeling is always a good thing to do.
posted by swheatie at 5:37 PM on June 14, 2020

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