How do I stop the deterioration of my mental health?
April 18, 2022 6:30 PM   Subscribe

You are not my therapist; I have had therapists; they are not super useful in this case for Reasons I will explain. However, I am having suddenly crippling executive function symptomology and need to deal with it. What are some new coping methods I may not have tried that can address these issues?

To clarify: I believe in therapists, they have been very good for me in the past. My problem is twofold:

1) I have real, identifiable problems that are hitting suddenly - loved ones at war, pet death, family troubles, financial issues. Therapists tend to either be distracted by these things or focus on trying to make me feel better about these things. I don't need to feel better about these things; I need better functioning that allows me the tools to deal with the issues.

2) My functioning is deeply impacted, but I'm currently keeping my head afloat; this makes therapists thing I'm exaggerating the scope of the problem. I am not, I'm just really good at doing things even when they're really damaging to my mental health, but it means I'm running at maximum capacity at all times and am exhausted and close to my breaking point.

What I am currently experiencing that is causing me the most trouble is an inability to focus on any one thing for long unless it is an immediate and direct danger/emergency. In the past, I've managed to short-circuit this by either playing music or television in the background while doing the thing, or by doing reward cycles of video games or shows; now I am having difficulty focusing even on the games or shows. I am able to focus on some fiction books, though not all, and I am completely incapable of focusing on articles that I would have read thoroughly a few months ago. Sometimes I am actually unable to concentrate on important things that are a priority, but not directly threatening.

I am game for and will try all potential reasonable solutions! Thank you in advance, Metafilter.
posted by corb to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Serious question—when was the last time you had a holiday, a proper break of a week or more, to do nothing?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:38 PM on April 18, 2022 [13 favorites]

How is your nutrition? Coping takes up energy and nutrients. Could you need a top up of iron, Vit D, Vit B6 and/or Vit B12? And if you are taking B Vits, are you taking too many? Oversupply can cause issues too.

Like Fiasco, I also wonder if you need a brain-reset via a break doing nothing. At least a week.

There may not be a 'cure' that doesn't involve you stopping what you are doing and giving yourself a break.
posted by Thella at 6:47 PM on April 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If any of your tasks are ones you can do while on a videocall, having an accountability buddy on a call with you might help (and then you keep them accountable with what they're working on). The peer pressure helps both participants focus. It's often called body doubling.
posted by brainwane at 6:57 PM on April 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

I don't know your past with medical history but medication is one thing that could help you reset your brain. It certainly has helped me in the past, although I have also resisted it before. While your challenges do seem situational -- I'm so sorry that you're dealing with so much stress and worry right now!, a check up with a trusted GP or other physician could potentially help explore any underlying physical ailments.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:58 PM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cut back as hard as you can. Make a list of the areas you are spending effort, and limit yourself to focusing on just a few things - I like three, for me, when times get tight. If this goes on long you can rotate through them as needed on a weekly or two-week basis. For whatever isn't getting your focus, intentionally either cut back (tell people you aren't available, cancel plans, push out deadlines) or do the bare minimum you can to keep things afloat.

Then, also, the things that maintain your "supply": Sleep. Try to get enough. Get some exercise. Get outside. Try a mindfulness exercise or two if you can, not focused on any of your "chores" but just watching a tree or going for a walk or washing a dish with careful mindful attention.
posted by Lady Li at 7:02 PM on April 18, 2022 [6 favorites]

To make your breaks really relaxing maybe you need to do something absorbing, rather than try to get yourself to take an interest in passive entertainment? People will say, "Take a walk!" "Hit a pillow!" That would be great and healthy, but I have learned that I am not going to do that shit. Instead I've taken to baking and frosting cakes. First I learned to make all the kinds of grownup buttercream (French meringue, Swiss meringue, ermine); then I learned to pipe flowers and leaves and all manner of little adorable decorative crap with it. Currently I'm learning all the various "crèmes." Crème patisserie. Crème diplomat. Next up? Crème chiboust. This is ruminative--I can think about my hideous life while I'm mixing and pouring and schmearing, but since I'm moving and doing things the thinking doesn't get too spirally and overwhelming--and it's compelling because it's not only not healthy and productive, it's actively worse than useless (given that I've been cramming sugar and starch into my face nonstop with both hands for two years in the pandemic and have gained I don't know how much weight but it's starting to be a problem). So it's enjoyable to do, I end up with something delicious I can flaunt and get praise for, and it's most definitely Fun And Bad For Me without being too fun and bad (though in April when everybody's birthday happens, it's really starting to get there; I think I'm going to have to get addicted to knitting or elaborate nail art again, both of which also happened). I find that if I permit some flagrant misbehavior, somehow the hours of active mischief relax my mind enough that I can get the day's work done.

I also agree with Smorgasbord that it's worth a visit to the GP, just in case something's physically up.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:12 PM on April 18, 2022 [19 favorites]

Best answer: I think I may have also hit the point you're talking about where reward cycles aren't effective because rewards themselves are too much effort for my wrung-out, stress-fogged brain.

It may help to try rest cycles instead - like, lying down and playing shallow video games or re-consuming familiar media. Just enough stimulation to distract you from having thoughts, but as little effort as possible.

It can help to set a timer for twenty minutes or an hour or whatever so you're not continously stressing about whether you feel better enough to return to your backlog of tasks or not.
posted by All Might Be Well at 7:17 PM on April 18, 2022 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Here are some ideas to try, hopefully something in here resonates with you.

Consider a somatic therapist, someone who can help you process these emotions with your body rather than with your brain.

Consider taking a Benadryl (or another sleep aid that you know works for you). Not on a regular basis, just once a week or so. In addition to getting you more sleep, these also downregulate your nervous system, so that you feel less running-in-so-many-directions and a bit more at peace.

Consider the idea that you are overwhelmed far past your ability to cope with it. If so, you can't fix the problem of too many inputs with... more inputs. You just need time, space, rest, safety, and a lack of inputs. Even if you are not particularly noise-sensitive or light-sensitive, it may help to spend some time with earplugs and/or an eye mask, or even sleep with them. If you have family, tell them to do the chores for you for a bit. Don't drink caffeine or other stimulants. Don't read social media. Don't read the news. Maybe literally get a website blocker if that is how the bad news is reaching you. Replace these with things like going for a walk, or lying down, or journaling, or just doing nothing, whatever that means to you in the moment.

Consider finding a small (very small!) "project" where you are in control of your environment. Aim for the feeling of small, steady, predictable progress. Maybe this is making bread. Maybe this is playing the piano. Maybe this is slowly tidying your room. Maybe this is doing a small workout. Whatever it is, try to do it regularly, maybe 2-3 times a week. Let yourself feel that you have agency here, and that you are steadily making progress on something.

I just remembered this comment I made ages ago, which features locking myself in a bathroom for an hour and turning off my phone in order to just get away from everything. That entire thread might be helpful.
posted by danceswithlight at 7:19 PM on April 18, 2022 [28 favorites]

^that thread is great.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:27 PM on April 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I hit a wall last fall - a lot of shit, a lot of burnout, could not function, NEEDED to function or I was going to lose my job - and Lexapro (and sleep meds) got me to a place where allllllll the other good stuff everybody recommends could actually work.

I am pretty sure, now, that I might have died. It could have gone that way. There was simply zero resilience left, no margin for additional stressors, I could not retain enough serotonin to get up above the marine layer to process anything.

At the point where I realized what I needed to just make it into the lifeboat - medicine - I just signed up with Brightside, spoke to a Nurse Practitioner on Zoom the next afternoon, went to CVS the next morning for my prescriptions. Just having done something, anything, parted the fog a little bit.

Sleep was as essential as the SSRI, and I needed medical help with that too, and it did take me a couple of months to stop sleeping until 10 or 11 on weekends (a thing I have not done in over 20 years, not even if I had insomnia all night) but my body DESPERATELY needed that sleep for restoration. You cannot improve your situation if you are not sleeping and achieving full REM cycles when you do sleep.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:38 PM on April 18, 2022 [23 favorites]

Did you have Covid in the 1-6 months before this worsening? Executive functioning and processing speed seem to be the areas most hit, and there are some providers and clinics that offer cognitive rehabilitation akin to post-concussion syndrome - might be worth looking into if this is you.
posted by todolos at 8:18 PM on April 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I used to be in your shoes a few years ago. Despite having a therapist I had deteriorated to the point of shoving dirty dishes into garbage bags and stuffing them into the back of a closet because I couldn't even load a dishwasher anymore. I asked MeFi what to do. You can see it here.

What helped was getting that tsunami of sympathy and understanding from strangers. Strangers being compassionate in response to me failing so much during that time. Strangers giving me permission to keep on failing for as long as I needed to. Strangers promising me that someday I would gather up my spilled life and get back to some recognizable form, but that day did not have to be now.

Now that I'm here on the other side, I can offer you some of what helped me.

First of all, THIS IS FINE. Your functioning is low right now, and that's fine. You're keeping your head above water: great work!!! Some days your head might duck under, and that's okay too. You can trust yourself to get through this, because you are made of real substance, Corb. You're doing an incredible job at staying afloat, and that's exactly what you need to be doing. You can go to bed tonight knowing you have done today just right, and you have absolutely done enough.

Someday you'll have so much focus and sharpness of mind that your thoughts will come to you like formation swimmers doing dolphin flips in unison. You'll not only read books and academic papers for pleasure, you'll even write them yourself, just to show off how organized your brain cells can be. You'll check off long to-do lists and handle hundreds of interruptions without losing your focus or your temper. I promise you that day will come. But for now you're doing exactly what you should be doing. Your brain is taking excellent care of you by focusing on what matters and letting everything else fuck off. This is good. You are fine.

Secondly, please ask for help even though you are sure it won't really help. I am a hypocrite for sure, because I never told my friends or my therapist how badly I was doing, but you know, later that year I had another near-breakdown, and THEN I did ask for help. Sometimes it's useful just to know we have support on tap, already available, should some dire need arise. So please set yourself up with some appointments - a therapist, and with your doctor to check for physical health issues that may be causing this to happen. Also text a friend, maybe. Like I said, even if you can't tell them what's happening, it's good leave the door ajar just in case.

And finally, I hope you will hear that we, a bunch of strangers, are here wishing you well.
posted by MiraK at 8:20 PM on April 18, 2022 [35 favorites]

Best answer: Corb. You were ON THAT THREAD. You told me this. Your words "Damn them forever" was my mantra for months afterwards. (That and Don Pepino's "someday I'll shower like a Kardashian".)

Damn those stupid articles you can't read. Damn them forever. There will be other articles galore when you are good and ready for them. These ones can go to hell.
posted by MiraK at 8:34 PM on April 18, 2022 [28 favorites]

A good therapist can help you focus on improving your functioning during a crisis under which you have no control, but a good therapist is hard to find so I don’t blame you for not wanting to try again. If you do consider it, look for people who specialize in solution-focused therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). ACT sounds like it’s all “be at peace!” but really it’s very behavioral and about figuring out how to do the things that are important and valuable to you regardless of what’s going on in your brain, so it might be a good fit.

You might find a containment exercise useful. It’s typically used in trauma therapy but can be helpful for people dealing with a lot of stressors that cause a lot of anxiety and rumination but which can’t be directly addressed right now.

Progressive muscle relaxation and/or autogenic training (Google either for many videos/instructions) are a sort of next-level relaxation exercise that some people find a lot more helpful than your typical deep breathing recommendations. It can help reduce some of that overwhelm enough to focus on what you need to do even if it doesn’t fix anything. Though personally I find laying in the dark under a weighted blanket for 15-20 minutes equally effective. Just taking time to intentionally calm down your nervous system for a bit can be helpful.
posted by brook horse at 8:35 PM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh but also I agree on just allowing yourself to function lower right now. Buy paper bowls and plates instead of washing dishes. Skip reading articles. Read kids books or old favorites or just look at pretty photography coffee books. Eat more frozen meals. Etc.

It’s okay to coast for a while. Use these techniques to do the things you really need to do and to take care of yourself. But let some of the higher goals go. Find easier ways to do things and simpler ways to bring yourself joy. I know that’s easier said than done, but shifting your perspective to “what can I let go of right now, knowing I can pick back up on my productivity/health/reading/etc goals when I’m not dealing with multiple crises?” is a good start.
posted by brook horse at 8:42 PM on April 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

I swear to god, every year, I learn about a new way medical issues can cause this kind of problem. (Because as my friends and family and I age we keep running into things :/)

Low iron, low vitamin D; poor sleep; problems with various organs (eg kidneys!); problems with various hormones; lumps and bumps inside and out…

COVID now, too - do you know or suspect that you might have gotten COVID at any time? (Cognition issues have come up in some research.)

As a few have said already, I would, without question boot it to a doctor - ideally a good and thorough one you can talk to - and get some bloodwork done, to start. (I’m hoping you have ok access to care?)

Also, caregiver burnout is real and can do this, too. (One night, after a few sleepless nights with my dad at the hospital, I went to the wrong apartment, on the wrong floor. Couldn’t understand why my key didn’t work. After like five minutes I realized there was a wreath on the door and that things were wrong lol.) Get more sleep, for sure. I wouldn’t mess with supplements until you know for sure what’s what blood wise.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:45 PM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh god yes to the coasting. When I recognized how much trouble I was in I shut ALL non-essential functions or attempts at functioning down. We ate Stouffer's lasagna, frozen meatballs and steamer veg with Ready Rice/Pasta, microwave green veg, grazed on several cheap pizzas for several days, a shitload of air fryer quesadillas and canned soup. I took washcloth baths and probably didn't brush my teeth with any consistency for a couple of months. Not a lot of cleaning got done. My priorities were work, sleep, dogs, making the front of the house acceptable enough that the landlord didn't hassle me. I did not expend any energy that was not absolutely necessary. I told my partner and a couple of friends that I was not okay and let them help however was useful.

I agree with whoever mentioned this is like a concussion. Your brain isn't getting all the go-juice it needs, let it rest. Skip the skippable articles, do not engage in optional social activities unless you think they are good medicine, do what you gotta do but don't find extra things to do.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:03 PM on April 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: When this happens to me the stress compounds because I get scared of the consequences of the work coming out & then I have another thing in my plate to deal with. When I realize I'm in one of these stress cycles I have to just stop, close my eyes, and just sit quietly for a few minutes. "You don't have time to sit still", I say to myself. "Hey shut up, the baby needs this." I say to myself. "You are stealing time!" I say next. Then I smile and say "Yes, I am stealing the time. I need this to make the work come out." Then I give myself a few more minutes. Then I get a little work done. Then it happens again but it's ok. Eventually the day will be over.
posted by bleep at 9:20 PM on April 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

I’m very sorry you are going through all of this. Your exhaustion is a natural response to all the real stress you are experiencing, and some of this is your brain actually trying to protect you from further harm. As others have pointed out, you need to rest, and it’s okay to pare everything down to survival level right now.

I know you are probably too overwhelmed to read a lot, but if you can get ahold of a copy of Amishi P. Jha’s Peak Mind, and perhaps ask a trusted friend to read it and tell you the most relevant points, it would be worth it. This is not one of those “hack your brain” books, but rather an intelligent and well-written analysis of how attention is destroyed by things like stress, written by a woman who was inspired to pursue this line of research when she got so stressed that she could not feel her teeth. She works a lot with the military and first-responders, too, and offers advice that is helpful under truly difficult situations. The book has really helped me start to understand the relationship between attention, working memory, and stress, and offered me hope for getting over my own brain fog.
posted by rpfields at 10:15 PM on April 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry. I hear you and feel you and dear god the shit tower you described scares me to contemplate.

All I can offer is to lower your standards. Don't bother trying to distract yourself or enjoy anything or spend time relaxing, just fulfill basic needs like eating, water, and sleep.

Use any time you possibly can for sleep, and use whatever pharma options you have in the short term (like 1-3nights) to get a few nights in before trying more active coping solutions.

When you can see beyond the tip of your nose - trusted doc first for medical options, bloodwork to cover bases, then a therapist if you can get them to focus on functionality not reasons/causes/ideas (like you, I'd put them further down the list), a long shower and soft comfy clean clothes (surprises me every time how much this helps).

If you can afford it after racking up decent sleep and doing life sustainment and medical visit, ordering a delicious and 'special' food delivery in a qty that will allow a lot of leftovers (in my city that's Indian but yours will be different - for me it's most useful if it's extremely spicy/rich/strongly flavored/contains veggis and not my usual fallback).

Keep on with life sustainment activities until you find spoons for more. Prioritize sleep above all else including cleanliness and food, unless you know that's an unhealthy choice for you. Eat food on a schedule and congratulate yourself when it happens and when it's not candy. Double plus achievement if it's veggies and or protein.

Add in drinking water, even if that too is on a mandatory schedule.

I've assumed you're avoiding alcohol by now - it takes too long and the next morning effects when you're living on the margin are too high to make it worth it (for me, but ymmv).

When you're inhabiting your body more add active coping like exercise or stretching or anything that works for you.

You can live on ice cream, sleep aids (taken as you walk in the door so they hit by the time you hit the bed), apples, and cheese for a few weeks if you need to. You can get those things delivered. It sucks, but you can live through a lot of things you have to by focusing very closely on getting through the next minute or 5m or hour or day and then to the weekend no matter how meaningless it may seem (hoping you have a shorter day or more casual work environment then at least).

Whenever you've achieved a few nights of sleep and a medical visit, find the next reasonable time you can take off an evening and do so. If you're able to do food and some restorative thing, great. For me it's usually feeling all the crap I've had to turn off to get to that time and then passing out in exhausted misery. But the next morning feels a little lighter....

And on you go. You can do it. There's an end in sight. Just do whatever you have to do to sleep enough to get there (or whatever your linchpin requirement is - for me it's clearly sleep).

You'll eventually be surprised when you realize you've thought of someone else- noticed their work or how hard they're trying too, and can say something about it. Then you can start to think about how to refill your inner well.
posted by esoteric things at 11:09 PM on April 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

I feel you so hard on this - practical shit:

* Keep a list of tasks you ** finish **.
* Make to-do lists on paper and allow things to fall off because other things are higher priority. Marking things off in pen is rewarding, and yes, you should add something to the list that you did just to mark it off!
*Body doubling if you can, pomodoro if that helps you (it rarely does me. Body doubling helps but is harder to arrange)
* check lists of executive functioning or adhd tips for help. I don't find many helpful because they insist on assuming I have certain skills I very much don't (chunking tasks, estimating times)
*** pick one high priority thing to get done and that's it (make it very small and very achievable, not "write thesis" or even "write first chapter" but more like "call xyz to get x info"). Everything else is gravy. I find if I can trick myself into this one I'm more productive because it takes the presssure off. This goes double if your to-do list is full of critical items.
* time track your day in reasonable chunks of time (30-60m for me) to prove to yourself that you have a lot going on and ARE doing a lot. I have to fight the "What the hell did I do all day?!" lack of progress thing with what I actually spent my time on. Don't do this if it's a procrastination tool for you or you'll spend lots of time on it. I use a tiny chrondex(?) circle with no room for detail and only do this a few times a year.
* put life stuff on your todo list too, if that helps you do it. You should get credit for taking a shower and making a hot meal, they take effort!

You -are- doing great. You're doing a ton, even though it feels like it's not enough. You are working hard! Your brain is revolting because it knows you're on thin ice and is trying to help.
posted by esoteric things at 11:42 PM on April 18, 2022

Two things:

1) Is menopause or hormonal changes leading up to it potentially a factor for you? A friend's partner has recently been hit with some significant executive function effects as a result of that, and while that knowledge doesn't provide a solution, a greater understanding of what's going on is always helpful.

2) This seems like something to come at sort of sideways, by finding things that are restorative, rather than primarily the brute force tactic of trying tricks to make yourself focus.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:36 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: corb, I'm going to make suggestions but please triage what works for you - the main thing is get through this okay.

For me when I hit that point there were a few things that helped. These were not things I started all at once, nor did I do them all consistently.

1. Outdoors as early as possible in my day. I live 6 doors from a really nice park, which helps but I'd recommend driving to one if you need. I took my coffee to the park and looked at the sky. At that time my kids were little so I took them too, bribing them with croissants. I also have a porch. Honestly. I still do this as often as possible one way or another.

2. One day a week to sleep in. This I think might have been the biggest immediate shift. My husband and I traded off weekend days to be point person for the morning. The day that I could sleep in I would sleep in and then read a magazine or a book, no electronics, with a coffee in bed. It was really helpful not to have an alarm (my husband set a vibrating one for himself.)

3. I hate to say this, and then martial arts. The combination of an hour a week (all I could manage at the time, which was fine) not at home (where I always see chores) and moving my body was key. The first few yoga classes I basically laid on the floor in child pose. I found a community class with teachers that were body-positive, which helped me not to feel like I was there to achieve yoga but just to enjoy it. but that was more luck than anything.

4. Movies. I know, it's Covid. But I started sneaking out to the movies about once a month by myself. There's something about the immersive quality of a screen and being locked into a dark room that helped me, just that little disconnection. I was pretty selective about which movies I watched; nothing super serious. I also had free noon concerts near my work that I started popping into (they were at a church but not religious.)

I have found over the pandemic this should be the easiest substitution, I mean, what are streaming services for? But actually no, for me I need to be shut into a theatre with a sense that The Thing Cannot Be Paused.

5. Comedy. Do you ever feel like you have just forgotten how to laugh? I had. I booked Thursday nights to watch only comedy shows via Netflix/etc. Short ones and stupid ones.

6. I started taking B12, magnesium (this was more for migraines), and vitamin D.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:36 AM on April 19, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I hear you. I think some of us are just finally hitting our pandemic low points after holding up and muddling through for a very long time. When you think about it, an amazingly long time.

You've gotten some really good advice above re: enough sleep, getting some exposure to nature, cutting down on inputs, vacation. I find that part of the fog of anxiety and sadness is the sense of not getting things done--so there are two strategies for that, depending on circumstances. The first is to pick an easy win, to build a sense of momentum. Oh, look, I took the recycling out. I'm a productive and normal person who cleans her house! Go me! Cross it off the list! What's the next little thing I can do? The second is pure triage. Pick the One Task. Everything else goes away. The recycling is irrelevant. Here comes the takeout. I'm a productive and normal person performing under huge pressure so I focus on what needs to be done only. Oh, look, that task (subtask?) is done now. Praise me! Praise me!!! Time to sit quietly with my eyes closed and breathe for a little while.

You can get through this.
posted by praemunire at 7:21 AM on April 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

Comedy. Do you ever feel like you have just forgotten how to laugh? I had.

Oh, wanted to second this. The other day my friend made a wonderful absurdist joke about a dark situation I was in and I was just rolling. It felt so good, and like something I hadn't done in ages. You can't summon that on demand. But if there are movies you know just crack you's the time to program them.
posted by praemunire at 7:23 AM on April 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

As a person who has Gone Through Some Things (Too Many)™, my only add to the great stuff on this thread is to get some GABA gummies to help you relax. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain. I know that sounds like the opposite of what you want, but it provides a protective and calming effect on the brain and body. It'll support your efforts to unwind, relax, actually sleep, etc. Often when I'm in the thick of things, trying to calm down my fight or flight makes me irritable, bc it's On For A Reason, Damnit, and an influx of GABA can force that edge to soften.
posted by foxtongue at 7:49 AM on April 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

You might be able to find a life coach who would help you prioritize tasks, both physical and emotional. You sound absolutely overwhelmed, and I'm so sorry you're going through this. If at all possible, reach out for help. Maybe a friend will just come over and be with you, make you cups pf tea, etc. Being cared for can be such a big help.

For me, lists help a lot, so that when I have a window of energy to get something done, I can do the most useful thing. Try to use coffee strategically, it helps people with ADHD, and may help you find some focus. The stress is so bad for your body, so maybe add an ordinary multivitamin, and definitely put in any effort you can to have healthy food.
posted by theora55 at 7:51 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My friend, I feel you. I just had my vitamin D checked and I was not low, I was sub-clinical. My doctor prescribed a once-a-week Vitamin D pill, not over the counter supplement. I cried because I felt the lights were turned on.
I was no longer only suffering. I did nothing but take the Vitamin D and now I feel I have the will to do some other things. I would never believe it could impact my mindset. I am rooting for you. You deserve to feel better.

Also, I hear you on the therapist front. I have been doing coaching and we brainstorm on things I can do. we move to action. In therapy, I just talked about how bad I felt. You might want to look into functional medicine coaching. I have had 3 sessions and I have made more progress than 1 year of therapy.
posted by Boyd at 7:51 AM on April 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

I want to second and third getting outside and vitamin D. If I don't get outside for at least a little bit every day, things go from bad to worse. Walk around the block, or if you're not up to that, just sit outside. Read a book, play on your phone, whatever. Just get a little sunshine and fresh air.
posted by joycehealy at 9:28 AM on April 19, 2022

Best answer: late thought. at my worst, darkest place when i was very struggling with emotional exhaustion and zero executive function - i asked a friend to just come over and sit with me while i opened my giant stack of mail.

can you have a friend come over and just sit in the corner and read? be a loving but unobtrusive presence? a connection, even in silence?

hell, call me. i'll hang out on zoom for two hours. we don't even have to talk, chat, or turn on video. I'll hold space for you, while you do work, take breaks, catch a nap...
posted by j_curiouser at 11:11 AM on April 19, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Thank you for asking this question. It really sucks, and I'm not like, happy you're going through this but thank you still, because *I* needed to hear these answers. To be reminded that I never ordered more vitamins when they ran out months ago and that's definitely not helping.
It gets harder and harder to turn off/down our brains, so full of all the things we're trying to keep track of, all the things that need our attention, all the things left un-done, and the people we worry about.
Sometimes I buy a new notebook (or rediscover an old one), and start making lists of all the things I'm thinking about. Lists of all the things I need to remember to do, and then a new page for the list of things under those items, and lists of things I'm worried about and why. It doesn't work every time, but getting stuff down on paper means my brain doesn't have to spend quite so much time remembering and reminding me of it all. Personally, I hand-write them instead of on my laptop or phone because it lowers the chances of me getting distracted.
Other things that work intermittently for me:
- I'll write quick tasks on a post-it and slap it on the wall of the room it belongs to, because sometimes if I'm passing through, I see it and think 'I think I can handle working on $Thing for a couple of minutes', and get to cross something off. (This came from going into RoomA to do EasyThing1, realizing I needed to do EasyThing2 first, which takes me into Room B, where oh right, EasyThing3 is here, let me take care of that... and so forth until it's 4 hours later, I'm exhausted, and none of those things are actually done.)
- I'll grab trashbags and/or pillowcases (as a temporary laundry bag) for every room, and then drop them off. That's it, just setting future me up for actually using it.
- I'll find things that need doing that are well-suited to zoning out while listening to music or tv, like pairing clean socks and tossing them into another basket, or sorting dirty laundry into colors and load sizes. Usually also by tossing into baskets like a carnival game. I don't keep track of points, but I absolutely give myself a prize when I'm done.
- Set aside an actual whole morning or afternoon or day to not *have-to* do anything. Even if it feels wrong. Put your own oxygen mask on first, as they say. You can't help anyone (much less yourself) if you can't breathe, give yourself time and space to just.. breathe.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:47 AM on April 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

If you can get a massage, or weekly massages, that could help a lot, especially if you're not getting supportive human contact otherwise. Expensive, yes, but it can help a ton.
posted by amtho at 12:54 PM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have nothing to add, except that I value and care about you as a fellow Mefite and if I lived close enough I’d come clean your house next weekend or something; but memail me if there’s any task that can be delegated over the internet for a day or two. I can google things or collect and organize info or write official sounding letters (especially to landlords, but it’s a transferable skill to a number of other bureaucratic or formal contexts).
posted by eviemath at 1:00 PM on April 19, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: There was a time, (and I have been through some things,) when I got a massage a week. It was so bad, I can't even remember when it was. It did help, and I have had to engage in practice to quiet my internal dialogue. I knew someone who stated that so and so, or some situation, could not live rent free in their head anymore. I don't know you but I get the feeling you do high stress work. Make a dividing line between work and you. Sometimes when things are intense at work, work thinks it gets to follow you home, and it does not. What you can do, is leave a physical, work journal open, where you can make a brief entry if it is super important. Then leave it aside and out of your head, until you are working.

A lot of people and systems run on the stress which drives alcobolism, as a reward. The systems are made that way by default, so healthy individuals have it worse than those who imbibe. You don't have either to drink, drug, or medicate in any way to keep a job. These times are stressful enough as a stand alone act, you must make a positive schism, the other side of which is a safe place for you to be. Calcium morning and night, vitamin D with the Calcium at night, I do dream better with that regimen. Dreaming is evidence of restful, natural sleep. Limit caffeine, to two cups of coffee in the morning. Take nutritious meals. Have soul satisfying friendship. Get in touch with each day, feel the sun on your skin at least 10-15 minutes. Listen for sounds of natural life. Enjoy them like they are the love of this world sent to you.

If there are things you can do nothing about, kick them out of your head, so you can do what you can do. Remember what you like, have it around, and reward yourself for what you do. That is one way to reward executive function, piece by piece, the dishes are done exhale, savor that they are done, the laundry is done, savor it, papers are written, done exhale, sit a spell have a snack, go for a walk, let yourself off the hook. Don't fail in recognising your accomplishments, make a space between them. No buts, example, I made a good dinner, (but they are x,y,z.) Be careful with yourself, cry if you need to. Be comfortably dependent on those whom you know, love you. None of us is truly independent. Best to you. You are a great Mefite and worthy of peace.
posted by Oyéah at 1:37 PM on April 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

Can you tell everyone you have Covid and just sleep for a few days?
posted by nouvelle-personne at 2:30 PM on April 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey everyone! First, thank you all so, so much for this.

Secondly: all those who said I should prioritize sleep and just force myself to sleep were absolutely right. I have forced myself to sleep and to nap and deprioritize other stuff until I had done so and I feel a lot more human again.

Also! I have taken things off my plate that are not necessary and where I was just worried about disappointing other people. It is a huge relief.

I've also ordered a bunch of frozen food, and scheduled some zoom accountability co work sessions for the stuff I really need to get done.

I'm not up to going outside but I am taking vitamin D pills, just in case.

You are all beautiful people.
posted by corb at 7:07 PM on April 20, 2022 [15 favorites]

I'm so glad to hear you're feeling a bit better. May I suggest, not just frozen food, but get a restaurant delivery app (Door Dash, Uber Eats, etc) and order hot fresh food right to your door. It's ok to pay a little extra for convenience when you're having a hard time!

Hamburgers, poutine, Asian beef stir fries, wonton soup, butter chicken, thai curries, Vietnamese grilled meat, and bahn mi sandwiches are suprisingly good eaten cold a couple days old from the fridge... Get hearty comfort food you like, that will be delicious and comforting and fortifying. And get several meals' worth at once so you have leftovers.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:38 PM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

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