Is there a way to relieve a bit of the pressure of depresison?
March 5, 2008 5:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the bottom the stereotypical bleak pit of a crushing depression. I'm doing the therapy. I'm doing the medications. But what do you do with your brain meanwhile? How do you keep going on?

This year marks 20 yrs that I've started down the depression path but it really hasn't been until the last six months that I've actually truly started to deal with it. I have a new excellent therapist that puts up with all my crap and a semi-okay mixture of meds that help somewhat but day in and day out I'm in emotional pain a heck of a lot of the time.

I see the therapist as often as I can (once a week - and she sets special time aside for me to make it weekly) and we're going slow so as to not overwhelm me when I don't have any coping skills. Well aside from self-injury. But I am finding myself at a loss as to what to do during that down time. Otherwise I'd be calling her up or the suicide hot line 24/7.

I'm on disability due to the depression, cannot stand to be in public most of the time, and spend most of it alone as I have no real offline friends. I'm being bombarded by this pain all the time and have no idea what I should do about it. What things I could do to keep it at a level I can cope with. To get my mind off of it. If this makes sense.

I'll probably make enemies but I will have to say there's no way I can do exercise which I know is what I should logically do but self image, a life time of being mocked and physical capabilities rule this out as something I will get pleasure from at this point.

I guess I'm looking for other ways to just cope. Things you can do to just keep going on. Things you may have done that brought you a tad bit of relief if you've felt this soul destroying depression before.
posted by beautifulcheese to Health & Fitness (58 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
i won't mock you for not exercising. i hate it. i HATE it. i've never had a runner's high. i count the seconds until my allotted 45 minutes is up.

still, it really does help. even just talking a walk (which is much nicer than hopping on a treadmill) helps. if for no other reason than it breaks the routine. if there is a park in your area, you may find that it's not very populated during the work day, and you might be able to take a walk without encountering too many people. (headphones and sunglasses help.) why not start by just going to a park with a book and getting some sunshine? make yourself stay for half an hour, unless it's raining or freezing. then you can reconnoiter the park and get a sense of how crowded it gets.

i'm sorry i don't have any other suggestions, besides to take it one day at a time. good luck to you. i'm glad you're getting help.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:45 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I dealt with depression through college, and can say that, in retrospect, the #1 activity that helped me was playing music- I've intermittently been an avid clarinetist. Find some hobby, any hobby, that involves other people- volunteering is great if nothing comes to mind.
posted by gsteff at 5:52 PM on March 5, 2008

For what it's worth, exercise isn't necessarily something you must do at the gym, in public, or even out of your home. I would encourage you to consider checking your local library for beginning yoga DVDs to try out. It needn't be strenuous, or taxing, and you can take it at your own pace. Physical activity is meant to be good for depression, so it's worth a shot.

Really you want to find some form of self-betterment to spend your idleness on, so that you're not just marking time between sessions with your shrink. Is there a cuisine you particularly like? Get some cookbooks and try working your way through 'em, improving your skills. Join the MeFi Backtagging Project and help tag all the old posts. It's a worthwhile, yet solitary pursuit. Read the complete works of someone you like who is also "good for you," if such an author exists. Spring is on its way, and you live in a beautiful part of the world. Solitary walks could be pleasing, if you are able to focus on external things. Bringing a camera along with the intent to Flickr might help.

Good luck. For what it's worth, there is another side to this thing. It may not feel like it most days, but that's just because you're in the thick of it. Do what you can to keep walking in a straight line and someday you'll realize that you've made it through and you didn't quite notice when it happened.
posted by mumkin at 5:55 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Change your routine. Do something different, anything different. Drive or walk down a different street to go grocery shopping. Rent movies you have never seen. Go to random library programs even if they don't interest you. You don't have to be happy while you do things that are different. But they really do help distract the mind and sometimes short-circuit the grinding thought repetition that seems to accompany low emotion.

I second walking, by the way, because not only does it help but it is also a way to do something different. You'll rarely see the same combination of things every day.
posted by Miko at 5:55 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

N'thing walking. Preferably in natural settings, by the water, or parks.

Escapist literature is not unhealthy. Raid your public library for real dead trees books. This will also give a reason to get out of the house.

This question is one you should put to your therapist too. It is exactly the kind of question she should be able to answer.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:02 PM on March 5, 2008

I think part of the problem with depression is that it is with you ALL the time - there's no break or breather and it wears you down. Getting out and exercising is the usual recommendations, but there are days when I just can't make myself go outside so I know where you're coming from.

Apart from the usual treatments, I started trying to stop the overwhelming brain-wreck by by trying to do one fun thing per day to cheer myself up. The idea is that it gives you a bit of a breather and upsets the usual flow of horrible emotion. So, one day I would have a long and completely indulgent bath and another day I would go for a long drive. Or watch a favourite movie. Or eat a favourite food that I don't normally eat. Or re-read a favourite book. Since I got a cat, I spend a lot of time playing with her around the house like a four-year-old. Whatever does it for you.

It doesn't matter how small or silly it might be because the small stuff is easy to do. It helps to have something to look forward to and actually doing it makes you feel a bit better and it helps to break up the unrelenting bleakness.

I wish you the very best. You've done the hardest bit already by getting help.
posted by ninazer0 at 6:05 PM on March 5, 2008

Best answer: Create some art. Abstract and interpretive pieces can short-circuit the "that sucks" judgemental part of your brain while you take your hurt out on the clay/paper/paint/etc.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:06 PM on March 5, 2008

Get out. Don't spend most of your time alone in your room: that only gives you more time to mope and obsess over your problems. Become a regular at a local coffeehouse, develop a book habit, wander around the city a little - not the busy center, but little streets you've never seen, or parks you've never explored. Look for musical or theatrical or artistic or cinematic events that sound interesting. Look for events and places where you won't feel "in public" - that table in the back nook of the coffeehouse, a seat in in the dark of a theater or music hall, etc. Sometimes just getting out of the house feels like a relief - a small accomplishment, an affirmation. And reward yourself. It's hard, very hard, and if it helps to know you'll get a good cup of hot chocolate or a relaxing book or something out of it, you'll have a reason to follow through.

As you get used to going out, set yourself small goals: running errands, maybe a semi-regular activity, a series of books to go through, a series of coffee houses to visit, a bunch of recipes that require fresh ingredients (and thus trips outside), whatever. Give yourself a regular to get out of the house, and tie it to something small but rewarding. And maybe you'll slowly start to be able to exchange small talk with a barista you've seen a few times, and so on. Nothing big, but you'll start to feel a little more connected. If you start to have a little more energy, try organized - but still relatively controlled - activities like classes.

And yes: Ask your therapist for help! You might want to consider group therapy or support groups for people with similar problems. They'll be an undemanding set of people, and will understand all too well what you're going through. But they might have some coping strategies you don't have, and visa versa.

I'm currently going through a bad patch myself, and it can be very hard to follow my own advice, some days. But you're doing the right thing, and you'll get through it.
posted by ubersturm at 6:10 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I can sympathize with the depression, and I can absolutely sympathize with not wanting to exercise. Working out does make me feel better to an extent, but I have to have a decent baseline mood to motivate myself to get out there in the first place. Just keeping my eyes open when I walk down the street can be a challenge some days; getting on the treadmill and making my legs hurt around all those people when what's the point I'm fat seems like a completely insurmountable task.

It is so very hard, laying there, staring at the clock with hours nothing to do and nothing you want to do, just wishing those hours would go away, tired of consciousness. It really does feel, as you said, crushing - physically crushing you from all sides, pressing you to the floor.

The one thing that helps me most often, medication and all that aside, is distracting myself. With healthy distractions - not eating bags of chips or chain-smoking or impulse-buying, but instead reading a book or doodling or playing a game or just writing about my feelings helps me immensely. Even opening the one Harry Potter book that I've already read 183 times helps. As you work through this with therapy and your mood begins to improve you can take on more challenging distractions - read new books, take up a hobby, buy some dumbbells and lift them at home.

Another thing that helps is to focus not on "happiness," which can ring so hollow and false when you're in the midst of depression, and instead focus on things you like. Sometimes on bleak days I do Google image searches for flowers and astroturf and flip-flops and other things that I find pretty and cheering. It helps, more than trite affirmations can. Think of something small that you appreciate and look for it in the everyday. If you like birds, for example, go outside and sit in the park and listen to birds. And don't get upset if you hate the birds some days; it does happen, it doesn't mean you will hate them forever.

I have no idea if this will help you, but I hope it does. Anyway, I empathize completely with you and I am rooting for you to get better. I have absolute faith that you will.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:13 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

N^thing taking a walk. Any exercise will help. You can take it at any pace you want. At a really slow pace, it won't do much besides possibly relax you, but that's better than sitting at home overthinking stuff. I also agree that you should take something to occupy yourself on your walk. Music, a camera, a book to stop and read when if you should find a nice spot (though I'd imagine it might be a bit cold for that right now where you are).

You might try doing things just out of the house, but not necessarily around too many others. I used to go read at a cafe or wherever, because it was just a good way to get out of the house, and I got to be near other people without necessarily having to engage them. People watching is a good way to keep your mind away from your negative thoughts.

I also used to go to movies by myself. Another great way to be out doing something out of the house, and keep your mind busy. This is a good one to do on weeknights too. It won't be too busy, if you're concerned about that, and it's one of few things you can do that doesn't involve alcohol. You could also watch movies at your house of course. I personally find going out to see them as a slightly better option though. That way you're out, doing something, moving around, which is good, and you also don't have the ability to hit pause, and go do something less mentally stimulating, where you might get into negative thinking again.

Again, walking can be great. I LOVE my neighborhood. I would spend most of my days just walking around. Stopping at a cafe when I felt like it, then heading downtown and seeing a movie, or going somewhere for some lunch. So when I suggest walking, it includes other things. If there are interesting places, you can a couple weeks just walking every day, getting to know all the places around you.

And of course I've mentioned reading. That can be a good one. It can be challenging though, because it requires more active concentration than a movie. You should give it a try though. If you find it very difficult to concentrate, this is something that can be discussed in therapy. A change in medication could possibly help. The right atmosphere is important too. I suggest doing it somewhere outside the house, again because it's good to simply get out, and you'll be away from distractions.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:14 PM on March 5, 2008

Only thing that cheers me up is to learn how to do something I didn't know how to do before. I don't mean anything big like starting a new course or a degree, more like fixing myself on some trivial household problem and working out a new skill. I don't know how manually-minded you are, but for me, if it's a job done with my hands and it works out successfully, that's the best of all.
So... I give you knots.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:16 PM on March 5, 2008

It's horrible, isn't it? I'm sorry you're feeling so crappy. When I've been in this space, which I have, many times, it has felt like nothing will work. Nothing. But I've gotten through it, and you can too.

A couple of concrete suggestions (I'm working from the assumption that you want baby steps.)

1) Treat yourself well. Eat foods that are nourishing and comforting. Sleep as you need to. If it feels good to take a bath, take a bath. If it feels good to touch soft things, touch soft things.
2) Notice your thoughts. When you tell yourself something bad about yourself ("I'm stupid. I'm a reject...variations on those themes...), remind yourself that it's not true and that it's the depression talking. Because it's not true, whether you can see it right now or not. I promise.
3) Distract. Funny movies, books that aren't depressing, music you like, any activity that will keep you busy and keep your head out of self-dissection is a good thing in the short term.
4) Do things that you're good at, and pat yourself on the back. Actually, pat yourself on the back for any and ALL accomplishments. Even if you think you don't deserve it. That "I don't deserve it" line is also bunk. It's the depression, lying to you.
5) Clean something like your sink or polish some shoes. If that is too overwhelming, find something smaller to celebrate. Buy the shoe polish. Put the sponge on the counter in preparation for possibly cleaning the sink. Brush your teeth. Floss. Do one of these things, or two if you can. Think about how fantastic it is that you managed to do it despite the very real difficulties. You might/will immediately respond to this positive self-talk by denying that it could possibly be true. That's also the depression lying to you.
6) It will pass. It will. Keep reminding yourself of that.

I hope that helps.

Oh, and calling the suicide hotline is always an option. Always. They listen, and they won't mind even if you just sit there and cry.

If you find yourself with a plan to kill yourself, go to the ER immediately, even if you have to call an ambulance. People resort to suicide when the pain is too much to bear. It's the depression lying to you.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:23 PM on March 5, 2008 [10 favorites]

Things you may have done that brought you a tad bit of relief if you've felt this soul destroying depression before.

Have you spoken to a GP about this? You may have a thyroid issue, hormonal issue, etc that could be the root cause of this. A basic blood test can detect most of these problems.

Mediation and relaxation techniques have helped me greatly. These things have also exposed me to Theraveda Buddhism. Recovery from mental illness takes a holistic approach feel free to Mefimail me for more details.

Lastly you sound agitated to me. Perhaps you dont need SSRIs as much as you need a tranquilizer like a benzo.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:23 PM on March 5, 2008

Leave the house every day, even just for a bit. Perhaps you could volunteer to walk dogs at your local animal shelter? The pups will be eager to see you and affectionate and glad for your company, and you won't have to talk to them at all if you don't want to.
posted by judith at 6:25 PM on March 5, 2008

I don't know if this is an option for you, but read an article recently about ketamine being a rapid and effective treatment. I believe it's only in trials at the moment though. More on this thread.
posted by jjsonp at 6:26 PM on March 5, 2008

I'll probably make enemies but I will have to say there's no way I can do exercise which I know is what I should logically do but self image, a life time of being mocked and physical capabilities rule this out as something I will get pleasure from at this point.

Walking at nighttime?

I have a friend who didn't feel comfortable exercising. She started walking late at night and found it beneficial.
posted by mattoxic at 6:27 PM on March 5, 2008

Make sure your doctor who's prescribed you the meds knows that you see them as only semi-okay. S/he needs that info. It's completely necessary that you give your feedback about that.

All the advice above is good. I think a lot of us have been there. Just take it a day at a time and be kind to yourself.
posted by loiseau at 6:33 PM on March 5, 2008

That is great that you're taking steps to deal with it. That is the biggest hurdle! If you find that your meds aren't really doing it for you (you said they were just "semi-ok"), let your therapist know.

Depression is exhausting. When I was in the depths of my worst depression, I did not have the motivation to do much of anything. For months. Sometimes the only thing I could do was sit still and listen to myself breathe. Focused on my breathing, emptying my mind. I would do this for hours, especially when I wasn't able to sleep. After awhile, I realized I was meditating. It helped. I still do it, and probably should do more.

Once I had the slightest bit of motivation I'd go to a park, find a secluded spot, and do the same there. I often took a short, easy hike, too. I would bring my camera once in awhile. It's interesting to look at the pictures from that time.

I also made a list of all the things I liked to do when I wasn't depressed, like ride my bike or work on my garden, and things that needed to get accomplished, like cleaning the bathroom. I would try to do ONE thing on that list each day, even half-heartedly. Sometimes it took herculean force to get myself to do that one thing. But I would feel like I did something at the end of the day, and that would lift my mood.

All the best to you.
posted by medeine at 6:33 PM on March 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

You can buy a manual treadmill (self powered) for about $100. Several years ago I would get videos from the library and put one on and tread all the way through it. The best movies for that are movies that you'd probably never bother to watch otherwise, like stupid action movies that don't require too many brain cells to follow if your treadmill is making too much noise and drowns out the dialog. My own personal discovery is that 5 miles a day really will break a low mood. I think you are overly self-conscious about yourself out in public-- nobody really cares about you, seriously--don't use that as an excuse not to try. Otherwise, try a cheap treadmill (maybe get one off freecycle?) and try the crappy movie idea. It distracts you from the utter boredom of walking on a treadmill but it does help with your mood. Good luck!
posted by 45moore45 at 6:33 PM on March 5, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you for your responses. Made me all misty eyed. Its hard to even think of any of these ideas on my own and I wasn't even sure if my words made sense.

Its a lot for me to process as my brain fails me a lot lately but I just will note a few replies :

I never thought of asking my therapist. Heh. Thanks for that suggestion.

I'd love to be able to read books again. I haven't been able to for months and it has near killed me.

I understand the reasonings for goings for walks and I really want to. I just find myself at the stage of I'm so horribly fat and disgusting I shouldn't be seen in public with others. But it helps that someone else understands that.

I also have a thyroid problem (um...under active) so am on meds for that.

Some days I can really only achieve the whole brushing the teeth thing and it feels lame that that is an accomplishment. But thanks for mentioning that self talk too. I thought I only did that. It is hard to distinguish what is "normal" thinking and what is the depression since I've had it for so long. One of the big things I'm working on in therapy.

All of this is good stuff. Please keep ideas, further suggestions coming. Thank you.
posted by beautifulcheese at 6:42 PM on March 5, 2008

You know, if brushing your teeth wasn't an accomplishment, dentists wouldn't spend so much time telling people to do it.
Just sayin'.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:45 PM on March 5, 2008

Do you have a pet? A lot of people use pets to help them with depression, especially dogs. If you have something depending on you, loving you and wanting to be around you it can make you feels worlds better. They love you no matter what, and it will give you a reason to take walks without feeling awkward or alone. I hope you find something to help, I know how crushing depression can be.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 6:56 PM on March 5, 2008

Baking is good. Especially if you can give away most of what you make. A medium-complicated recipe is good. It keeps your hands and your mind busy and you have to be precise. Baking bread is good because there are a bunch of steps to follow and it gives your day some structure. For example, you can get the dough started and then you know you'll have an hour or two to let it rise. So, you think to yourself: I'll go walk around the block twice and sit on a bench at the park for 20 minutes and then it will be time to come check my dough. And so on. It will make your house smell nice. You could maybe give it away to an older neighbor or make cookies for some kids. Some police and fire stations will happily accept treats - call and ask. Or stick it in the freezer.

The other good thing about baking or cooking is that it's usually a small project that you can start and finish in an hour or two and when you're done, you have something tangible that you can look at, taste, and admire.

I wish you well. As you can see from all these responses. people care, a lot.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:57 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, first of all I'd like to say that I totally understand how you feel, and I know it's a terribly maddening and saddening experience. There's a whole world out there with people enjoying it, and you just cannot even understand how that's possible.

Anyways, I'd just say that when I'm depressed I always think "what's the point of doing X". And when the depression lifts I always kick myself for not doing X. The time just slipped through my hands. And that makes depression more frustrating.

So, whatever X is for you... learning a new recipe, going to the gym, or just getting out of the house instead of staying in, DO IT NOW! THIS MINUTE! You can tell yourself the whole time, "this sucks. there's no point in doing this. i hate everything in the world." But when it's over, you'll have accomplished something.

I'm guess I'm kinda restating the question, but hopefully this offers a new perspective, or encouragement.

Keep fighting!
posted by mpls2 at 7:08 PM on March 5, 2008

Living in the moment is how I deal with depression. Whatever it takes to focus on the right here and the right now. If my mind starts to dwell on the past I get depressed. If I have anxiety about the future I get depressed.
posted by nickerbocker at 7:09 PM on March 5, 2008

Please get your thyroid levels rechecked. You might be underdosed which might be causing your depression. It took me several tries with different doctors to get the correct dosage. Some doctors don't want to bother giving you the replacement hormone unless you are really out of whack. I was only slightly out of the range of norm but when I finally got the correct dosage, the difference was incredible. I felt like someone took the sweat sock off my brain, I wasn't foggy, lethargic, etc. I also lost 30 pounds without trying after getting the right dose. If your regular doctor doesn't feel you really need a change, try your gynocologist since the thyroid impacts periods and hormones they will order the blood tests and give you a new dosage level. You must self-advocate for this because so many doctors just think of it as a minor inconvenience when in fact having a low functioning thyroid will impact every area of your life and make every day feel like wading through molasses.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:17 PM on March 5, 2008

But thanks for mentioning that self talk too. I thought I only did that.

Oh GOSH no. That is a classic symptom of depression - and that's definitely depression talking, not you. That's what's telling you not to go for a walk - but I understand that you can't take on what you're not ready to take on because you have enough going on already. So if that just seems...crazy, don't go there just yet. But I just wanted to say that all of us who have been depressed can probably recall telling ourselves we were just too lame / loserish/ cursed/ disgusting/ unacceptable / sorry / hated by God to get better. There absolutely is another side to that where you gain perspective and understand that all that was untrue.

When I slip into negative self-talk I try to remember to ask "Is that true? Is there another way to view the situation? Is there a chance I'm wrong? Would I say that about someone else like me?"
posted by Miko at 7:19 PM on March 5, 2008

Would you consider joining a support group for depression? Or group therapy of some sort? Especially if you are home alone much of the time, one weekly social event is good, and one with people who understand perfectly damn well how you are feeling is even better. Jesus, being alone all the time is depressing enough, even more horrible when you already feel like crap.

I always hated individual therapy but group was great. I made a few friends; you will too, and maybe going out in public, for a walk or movie, won't be as awful when you have someone who struggles like you to go with. Your therapist should be able to recommend some groups if you are interested.

Medication should work better than semi-okay, so definitely follow up with the T about that.
posted by bluenausea at 7:34 PM on March 5, 2008

Being blunt, I don't think your medication is right. Depression is a tough cycle to break. You might love exercise and hobbies, but you're in no state to discover that. One of the ways I could tell that meds were working for me was that I was able to implement small positive changes that had seemed unimaginable only a few months ago. These were little things like exercise, not hanging around with toxic people or sitting alone in my apartment for days on end. More importantly, I was able to decide not to watch television for 8 hours a day, and to limit my time on the internet.

You're still suffering from physical depression, and I expect your therapist knows this. Either you need to give your meds a little longer to kick in, or you need to change them.

Again, sorry about being blunt. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Once you get strong enough to make changes to your life, things will get better. If you're not at the point yet, keep looking for professional help. Depression is a medical condition. Good luck. I really feel for you.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:03 PM on March 5, 2008

PS. There are a few activities that were kind of magical for me. Learning to knead bread, taking care of pets and flowers. Distraction is key. Listening to really good music and yoga were particularly good, too.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:07 PM on March 5, 2008

Distract yourself by watching a lot of comedies. Some bits will be funny enough to make even you smile. The physical act of smiling affects your brain and makes you feel better. Now that you're feeling a bit better, even more bits of the comedies will make you smile. Repeat. You might eventually laugh, which is also good for your mood and health. Repeat! If you don't feel like leaving the house, get a subscription service like Netflix or Blockbuster Online so you only have to go to the mailbox.

Avoid viewing/reading depressing things (sad or distributing movies, TV shows, books, websites).
posted by Jacqueline at 8:10 PM on March 5, 2008

I second what Stewriffic has written. Please make sure the antidepressants you are on are the right ones for you. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right one. You might find this article useful and inspirational. All the best to you. You will get through this!
posted by greenchile at 8:11 PM on March 5, 2008

Are you sure exercise is 100% out of the question? Your body is a vessel and machine that houses your mind. That's what I try to tell myself, anyway. If your body isn't healthy, it's hard for your soul to be healthy. I think of it as medicine, as therapy for the body. It's the one thing you can do right now to 1) momentarily tune out of what's going on in your head and 2) get on your way to feeling better in the long term.

Dittoing everyone about exercise not having to be a workout at the gym. I hate "exercise". Hate it. It's the last thing I want to do when I'm stressed out and it was something I actively avoided when I was at my lowest. I don't want people looking at me... I don't have the energy... I have enough on my plate as it is. But you know what? I do like sunshine, and I especially love the feeling after exercise, the moment I get to stop (and go take a bubble bath). So I make myself do it. It may not be so pleasant at the time, but I truly physically feel just a little better and stronger than I did prior to doing it. Pushing your body a little beyond your comfort zone really gives you a break from your mind and all that self-talk. And you get a little reward of having accomplished something at the end.

Forget 30, 45 mins a day. Just make it a rule to put on your sneakers and get out of the house for one minute a day. Go for a brisk walk around the block. Find a park and count 50 trees and go home. Couldn't make it out that day? No worries. Try your best to take a walk the next day.

Don't want to get out of the house, like I usually don't? Do some stretches on your bed. Punch (box) an imaginary bad guy in the face 100 times. You can try this: SimpleFit. I'm pretty much perpetually stuck on Level 1 and I modify the heck out of the workout (can't do pullups, real pushups), but who cares? Or rent and make a copy of a ridiculous, happy workout video like Billy Blanks TaeBo Cardio. It's OK if you can't do it all. I certainly can't. I mess up the steps and quit halfway through, but who cares? I'll see if I can do a little more next time.

Working up the effort to even just the idea of exercise is so so sooo hard. But I really think you should give it a try. (Ask your doctor, of course.) Hey, maybe you can make a commitment to try it for, say a week, and get back to us.

*** Sorry to be pushing this whole exercise thing on you when I know life is especially draining and maddening for you now. There are many other seemingly more fun and fulfilling things you can do with your time--and you should do them too. But we all have to take time to take care of our bodies in whatever capacity we can each day. Which reminds me, I haven't been taking very good care of myself. I've been in a deep funk recently and have been struggling for weeks to get out of it. What I have been neglecting... exercise. Thanks for the question. Keep fighting and we all wish you well.
posted by QueSeraSera at 8:15 PM on March 5, 2008

Lots of the above suggestions are really great. I found reading light and easy books, and watching light and easy television (especially familiar ones) were a not-destructive way of getting through the hours. I love the idea about polishing your shoes or cleaning the sink. Small victories of that sort can be surprisingly rewarding. I felt good when I put clean sheets on my bed.

The best thing that I learned to do, after years of battling through, was to finally understand that the negative thoughts and pain I had were actually the depression trying to kill me. I had to learn that I am not worthless, I am not a useless person who can only damage those around me. I am not a waste of life. The disease I had twisted my thinking and my mood. The depression was using my brain against me, but I was still myself somewhere inside.

When you are in the trough and so trapped in the pain that you think you might combust, remember that you are actually winning. Each day, each hour, that you survive your disease is a victory. As you climb out you will be able to look back and realize how much bravery it took to get through it.

Good luck to you and keep going.
posted by rintj at 8:21 PM on March 5, 2008

On non-preview, I'd give Stewriffic 10 favorites if I could.

PS. A bite of beautiful cheese is magic and my own choice of reward when I accomplish something I've been working hard toward. I smile in anticipation of it. Love your screen name. :-)
posted by QueSeraSera at 8:24 PM on March 5, 2008

Aw thanks, QueSeraSera. I've been through enough bad depression enough times that I've become an old hand at managing it. :-)

One thing I always mention, but didn't here, because I didn't want to overwhelm, was DBT--dialectical behavior therapy. I've gone through the course and often rely on the skills it taught me during the bad times. It was designed for people with borderline personality disorder, but it works for depression fabulously. I cried the first session because I was so uncomfortable and overwhelmed and just incapable of imagining anything would work, but the more I got it, the better it helped me. I often go here for a refresher.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:36 PM on March 5, 2008

When my anxiety was at its highest, along with the resulting depression, I found that watching reruns of familiar tv shows was a way for me to stop thinking and stop feeling for a while. I went to the ones that were often on tv and were guaranteed to be light (Friends, That Seventies Show, Gilmore Girls). Perhaps you could sit and watch tv with a family member semi-regularly? That way you can escape for a bit, but you also have the comfort of being in the presence of a loved one.

I'm also rather sensitive to my surrounding, specifically light. Open your drapes, open your windows and let the sunshine in so that at least you are surrounded by an uplifting environment.

I would read books that I had read before and knew were rather light, yet engaging enough to absorb my mind (I highly recommend Terry Pratchett for this).

I was also seeing a counselor and she recommended guided meditations, something that would center me in the present. I had serious trouble sleeping, so I would play one of the meditations as I was lying in bed. This would teach me the centering techniques and also help me relax enough to have a shot at sleeping.

The other thing she reminded me of that was, for me, mind-blowing, was that my feelings and thoughts were not real. My anxiety and fear and depression and hopelessness were not real. This isn't to say that I wasn't feeling them, and that they weren't profound...but what is real is that I am sitting on my couch, wrapped in a warm blanket, typing on my keyboard, breathing slowly, listening to the tv playing in the background. This realization helped me remember that my emotions and my thoughts don't have to control me. When I feel overwhelmed, I focus on my immediate reality. What are the physical sensations surrounding me? Those are the things that are real.

I also found hope and comfort in the fact that things will get better. With the medication and the counseling, I had an end goal in sight. If I couldn't believe that it would get better all the time, I surrounded myself with people who could know it for me, who could remind me when I forgot.

People all over the world have struggled with this and overcome. Everyday, there are people who emerge out the other side of depression and are happy, fulfilled, and grateful (this was the hardest for me to imagine) for every new day. I had a really difficult time picturing I would ever be one of these people, but it happened, and it will happen for you.

Take care of yourself, be nice to yourself and be patient. It will get better.
posted by Bibliogeek at 8:52 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Do you know about this book? How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying To Kill Me: One Person's Guide to Suicide Prevention, by Susan Rose Blauner. When I was in a similar place as you, I liked having that book around. Apart from her suggestions (which I can't remember), it was nice seeing on paper that someone else really understood what the experience is like.

Don't worry if the biggest thing you accomplish in a day is brushing your teeth. I have been there, too many times, and my heart aches for you. It might be hard for you to hear, but it's great that you're working on treating the depression. You have dealt with it for 20 years, and in my eyes that means you're an incredibly strong person. Even if you don't feel that way right now, try to hang onto that thought. After depression going untreated for so long, it can take a long time for things to really get better. But they will, even if it doesn't seem like that from day to day.

One thing that helped when I was feeling like that was to lower my expectations until they were practically zero. Sometimes, I didn't have any expectations of myself at all. Just knowing that I wasn't going to hate myself for not getting ready, out of bed, etc. took some pressure off. Making it to appointments with my psychologist was often the big accomplishment of the week. Grocery shopping? Accomplishment of the month. Stuff like that. But when you do feel that little spark of something somewhere within you, grab onto it and use it to help you push yourself toward doing a little something more that day. I like a lot of the ideas here. Try to do something that gets you outside. Take a walk around the block, and if you feel too self-conscious, do like someone suggested and go when it's nighttime or early, early morning. I also like the idea of going to a movie by yourself (if you can afford it). That at least gets you going out to someplace, and sitting with other people around you but not having to interact with anyone.

As far as reading, I totally feel you on that, too. What I started doing when I couldn't concentrate on books (not to mention tv...scary!) was to try reading graphic novels. Personally I've never read a superhero comic, but there are tons of graphic novels out there and you might be able to read some of those without the concentration/focus being such an issue. There's just also something about them that makes me feel good when I'm depressed - something to do with that lowering of expectations. Look on this site or elsewhere online for lots of suggestions based on whatever interests you. Marjane Satrapi's work is good (Persepolis, Chicken with Plums, Embroideries), and doesn't require a whole lot of focus. Stuff by a Norwegian guy who works under the name Jason (here's one of his books) is cool, and if I remember right, some of them don't have any words at all.

Do something to take care of yourself and feel cared for. Brushing your teeth, eating something yummy, taking a tiny little walk, taking a looong shower or a bath, get a copy of a lame-o magazine like People and flip through it, or just do the so-easy-it's-embarrassing crossword... If you can find a dog or cat to pet, do it a.s.a.p. Find a tiny little thing to do - something that would normally seem like such a small thing. Don't worry about that. This isn't "normally." And go ahead and do it, knowing as you do that it's going to help heal some of the hurt you're carrying around.

I hope you are able to read through all of my random attempts at helping you...

I'm going to add a few quotes that I really hang onto when I'm feeling like that:

"There are many kinds of death. It isn't necessary to leave the physical body in order to let a part of you die that doesn't serve you any longer. When you allow that to happen, you can be reborn into a new and better life." --Bear Heart in The Wind is My Mother

"I am not responsible for being depressed. I can't help it. But I am responsible for what I choose to do with it." --interviewee in David A. Karp's Is It Me Or My Meds?

"The most important thing to remember during a depression is this: you do not get the time back. It is not tacked on at the end of your life to make up for the disaster years. Whatever time is eaten by a depression is gone forever. The minutes that are ticking by as you experience the illness are minutes you will not know again. No matter how bad you feel, you have to do everything you can to keep living, even if all you can do for the moment is to breathe. Wait it out and occupy the time of waiting as fully as you possibly can. That's my big piece of advice to depressed people. Hold on to time; don't wish your life away. Even the minutes when you feel you are going to explode are minutes of your life, and you will never get those minutes again." --Andrew Solomon in The Noonday Demon
posted by splendid animal at 9:15 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I had devastating depression I would sometimes do jigsaw puzzles for hours.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:20 PM on March 5, 2008

As a short term solution, music helps me. Playing an instrument can be invigorating and can also kill a lot of time. If you don't play an instrument make a mix-CD. But put a lot of time into it to make it just right. Then play the CD really loud and sing along to it. And while you sing to it do some chores around the house.

Gardening is nice because it makes you go outside and if you succeed in growing something it gives you a sense of accomplishment and responsibility.

Speaking of responsibility, if you're up to it get a dog. Then you'll be forced to take it on walks. You will also feel that some other living thing is dependent on you. And that's a nice feeling.

This might sound wrong, but drinking also helps me. I'm really not that much of a drinker and get bored of it after 2 drinks. But the initial buzz is sort of novel, and if you're looking to distract yourself and kill time that might help. Obviously if you are prone alcoholism or addiction or on meds that might not be good.

Another thing that might sound obvious and stupid is video games. But no one mentioned it, so I thought I'd throw it out there. If you have the money, go buy yourself and ps3!
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 9:24 PM on March 5, 2008

Foster an animal! If you have social phobia problems, this is an especially great one.

Animals are great companions, and when you're with one, people focus on them, not you. Raise a litter of kittens, or take in a scared little dog who really needs you.

One of the shitty things about being depressed is that you really do believe that nothing is going to get any better. And one of the things I love about fostering is that I have the power to make things better. Not only do I save a life every time I foster, I enrich someone else's life.

I'm more than happy to get you started with resources in your area if you want to mail me privately.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:41 PM on March 5, 2008

gesamtkunstwerk has it right, as does stewriffic. Shortly after I started taking the first medicine that helped, I got this weird physical sensation which I've never had happen since. I was sitting on my bed and staring at the wall -- and then I swear I felt something switch in my brain, exactly like a railroad track switch. That happened and then about a second later I thought "Geez, why am I sitting on my bed right now? I should get up and do something." AND then, magically, I DID get up. That was really the first "I should [and I could!] get up and do something" thought I'd had in four months. There's no non-cheesy way to describe it: it was a magical moment. Look forward to something like this happening to you. You are gonna start enjoying the hell out of something.

(Also: being able to brush your teeth is a big big deal, and keep up the good work.)
posted by oldtimey at 10:12 PM on March 5, 2008

Taking steps to climb out of serious depression is really hard, but you're doing it, and if you keep doing it, you will feel better bit by bit. You will. I understand how much energy it takes, and I applaud you.

I want to add my voice to the chorus suggesting that you review your medications with your doctor. Unless you are still in the ramp-up phase, semi-okay can become pretty good, or even great, given the right medication. As for hypo-thyroidism, nthing the tie-in to depression. Finding the correct dose of that medication can be finicky but definitely worthwhile. Be religious about taking it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, at least 20 minutes before coffee.

Forget the exercise part for now. You don't need to beat yourself up about that. Make this deal with yourself. Every day, at approximately x o'clock I will put on my shoes, jacket, and hat. That's all. Then, well you're dressed for a walk around the block, and if you feel up to it, do it. If not, oh well, try again tomorrow. Just put on your duds, that's the only commitment you have to make. The exercise thing, it will come when you're able.

The thing to remind yourself of is that you are not a deficient person, you have a chemical imbalance in your brain. It is a medical condition. It will take time to recover. You don't have to be doing whatever is is that you think other people think you should be doing. You just need to be caring for yourself, and that's what you're doing right now by going to therapy, taking your medication, and asking this question. You are doing the right things.

As for distractions, try to go to the library. I know it's hard to read right now, but you can get books on CD there. I checked. You could be one of the best read people in your town without turning a page. I also agree with all those above who suggest a pet. If you can, adopt one, it's nice to have another breathing being in your space.

If you can, confide in a friend or family member. Tell them you need their support, that you aren't up for chatting, but that you would be grateful if someone came to take you for a short, quiet walk. If friends and family aren't an option, call the local Canadian Mental Health Association and speak to someone in the peer support group. I understand that you don't want to be around people right now, but the occasional, genuine hug is really therapeutic. (as in: everybody really does need one) Sometimes others don't twig to what's going on unless you tell them. It's really hard, but you have to tell them what you need.

When you do get to the point where you actually feel like reading a regular book, think about reading up on your illness, to better understand what is happening in your brain, and to give you valid reasons as to why you are allowed to be, and should be kind to yourself. I found Moodswing by Dr. Ronald Fieve to be really informative in terms of the physiological aspects of depression, but that was many years ago, others may have more current suggestions.

Sending you a mental hug. You're pointing in the right direction, keep taking the steps as you're able. Big and small, they all count.
posted by lunaazul at 10:39 PM on March 5, 2008

I think my pets have been my major constant in dealing with depression, both for reasons mentioned above and because they make me get up and deal with things. If it's just me - well, sometimes, it's just "who cares" or "I don't want to deal with this right now, I'm going to hide." But even at my worst, my pets are my responsibility - if they need something, damned if I'm going to let a misfiring neurotransmitter keep me from holding up my end of the bargain and giving them the love and attention they deserve.

Also, because my health, work and school situation keeps me from having long-lived pets like cats/dogs/bunnies/iguanas right now, most of the ones I've had are exotics or recent domestics: I've had (consecutively, not simultaneously) praying mantids, triops, gerbils, and, well, bettas. The ongoing research to learn about the animals I'm interested in owning or do own as pets keeps me mentally stimulated. I have a textbook out now from the library called Ecology of the Planted Aquarium which I'm reading to get ideas for improving my bettas' set-ups, for instance.

That said, because they're dependent on you, it's really important to know your limits and not get in over your head. So if you don't already have a pet, and think maybe having a pet could be beneficial to you, it's important to choose an animal whose needs you can meet. freshwater's fostering idea is great, since it's intense but short-term, or if you think you would like a low-maintenance* pet of your very own, I'd be happy to help you brainstorm some ideas via mefi mail. There are a number of small animals and aquatic critters that are very beginner-friendly and extremely rewarding to take care of and interact with.

* That's "low-maintenance" in comparison to raising a litter of kittens or keeping a horse, not "can basically ignore." All pets need maintenance.
posted by bettafish at 11:18 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd like to 2nd yoga. One of the nice things is that nothing is needed for it - only a blanket, no need to go outside or buy any equipment. A good book is certainly very helpful, but you can find some lists of asanas and breath exercises online, too. A class is helpful as well, but again, it's not absolutely necessary, at home the advantage is that you can concentrate on the asanas that you enjoy more and it may be hard to find a teacher you will like in your area. After asanas, do some breath exercises and then meditate. Meditation works great after physical asanas because the tension is gone from the body and the mind is no longer distracted by discomfort of body. Other suggestions I've read here are fine, but the problem is that if there's a fundamental issue with the body, nothing else is fun. Also consider modifying the diet. HTH!
posted by rainy at 12:30 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Many people here are using "brushing your teeth" as shorthand for "doing something that makes you feel as though you've accomplished something substantial," and I couldn't agree more. Fiasco's comment is absolutely true. And I think it's emblematic of something much more profound.

My teeth are in terrible shape because of the years I've spent depressed (years that, to be perfectly honest, aren't completely over yet), but I've managed to use brushing my teeth as a way to create a feeling of accomplishment when I really need one.

I did this by becoming a bit obsessed with dental care, and it's something I'd wholeheartedly recommend. I bought myself an electric toothbrush (which I use in addition to my regular toothbrush) and a Reach Access flosser, because I wanted flossing to be as simple as possible. I buy Listerine whenever it's on sale, and use it three or four times a day. Most importantly, I bought a four-dollar digital timer from Target, which I keep in a drawer in the bathroom. When it's time to brush my teeth, I set the timer for three minutes and brush until it beeps. Then I floss, then I mouthwash, then rinse. I don't use the electric toothbrush every day, because I don't want the process to become too tedious.

Oh, and I keep a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste in the shower as well.

The upshot of all this is manifold:

(1) I've established a routine for myself, which gives my day more structure, which helps me feel more "professional" when I'm down.
(2) The routine involves a process that makes me feel as though I've accomplished something -- every day.
(3) Taking care of my teeth is something I'm doing for me -- something very necessary when you're suffering from depression, which, as others here have noted, makes you feel as though you're just about the least important and deserving person in your life.
(4) Overall the whole process just gets me pumped, and I think: What else can I accomplish now? I don't like to brush my teeth just before bed, because it gets me too excited to sleep. Yeah, I'm a total dork, I know.

(Another thing that helped me -- and others may distance themselves from this solution -- was to read lots of motivational and personal-development books. And for the haters, here's the thing about these: Even the ones that seem like they're probably written by hucksters [The Secret, etc] have this kernel of goodness in them: They let depressed people know, merely by their existence, that there is a way out, and it's in their hands. I'm not advocating anything specific here -- merely letting you know that if there's a part of you that rags on yourself for reading self-help books, it's wrong.)

Overall, to conquer depression is to deal it the death by a thousand cuts. There really is no single way out, and it's very important to remember that the process is a slow but steady one. If you do one single thing in a day that, for five minutes, makes you smile, or makes you remember what it's like to not be depressed, or that clears the fog of negativity from your brain and helps you see all the possibilities and beauty that you can wring from the world, then that day is a success and you should never think otherwise. Guilt won't help you. Cynicism won't help you. And "being realistic" certainly won't help you. The tiny things that make you more hopeful, and more appreciative of yourself -- like brushing your teeth, or getting out of the house for half an hour, or playing with a dog, or baking cookies -- will help you. I promise.

A couple of years ago I was living in my mother's apartment, without a job, failing to make student loan payments, and spending, quite literally, entire days in bed. Now I've moved cross country, I've got work as a writer (even got to do some actual travel writing), I'm in a satisfying relationship and I'm paying all of my bills on time. I'm not rich, I don't have my dream job, and I occasionally have days where I want nothing more than to just get the hell out of my own head. But things are a hell of a lot better than they were when I was deep in the throes of depression, and it's all because I took a series of very tiny steps (which, in turn, made the big steps a lot easier).

You can do it. I know you can.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:43 AM on March 6, 2008 [5 favorites]

They let depressed people know, merely by their existence, that there is a way out, and it's in their hands.

Just reread this and realized my wording makes my intent unclear. What I mean is this: Whatever their value, every personal development book assumes that the reader has the ability to climb out from under his or her depression. Which is true.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:52 AM on March 6, 2008

If you miss books but can't bring yourself to read, have you tried audio books? It's a good way to zone out and get the story if you aren't up to reading. Bonus: converting them to mp3, putting them on a player and listening while taking a walk. You can kind of trick yourself into exercising this way. There is something very soothing about being read to.

Nthing the pet suggestion. Watching my cat do her daily kitty nonsense always made me smile. And if I didn't feel up to getting off the couch I had a fuzzy nap-buddy.

I've been there. It can get better. Good luck.
posted by 8dot3 at 5:30 AM on March 6, 2008

Your genetic makeup has a lot to do with the metabolization of medication you take. Just as doctors have to monitor the dosage of Warfarin to the genetic polymorphism of CYP2C9, psychiatrists should pay close attention to effectiveness of dosage because CYP2D6 and CYP2C19 polymorphism affects metabolization of TCAs and SSRI antidepressants.

The medication I'm most familiar is Citalopram, a SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) that my son is taking for depression since he became suicidal in December. From reading the drug specks, it starts working at week 2 and reach peak at week 12. He has not reached week 12, but he is doing a lot better.

What has helped a lot was a kitten showing up half frozen on our doorstep. Walking, and he walks in the evening, helps. Trying to do one small fun thing a day helps. Birdwatching in the back yard helps. These have been given by other MeFites and I wholeheartedly second them.
posted by francesca too at 8:50 AM on March 6, 2008

just throwing my recently soul suckingly depressed two cents in here. i second taking teeny tiny steps towards things you want...someone above said "just putting the sponge on the counter when you intend to clean the sink" is a start and I AGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY. i also think getting involved in really repetitive things can help. i have a whole lot of different colored seed beads and when things were at their worst i purposefully mixed 10 colors together just so i could spend time with a beading needle resorting them and restore some order without having to think. Also i highly recommend buying or renting entire seasons of tv shows you want to watch. the sopranos got me through the worst of it, i started from the beginning and watched the whole series compulsively. i also nth taking pictures. download Adobe Lightroom from the internet (pay or free, your choice, both are options) and spend time looking and messing with the photos you took. the software makes it ridiculously easy to take cool pictures.
good luck. it will get better. oh yeah, also look at for lots of good insight into these matters.
posted by Soulbee at 9:51 AM on March 6, 2008

My depression coping strategies:

* Snuggling with my dog
* Watching one of my favourite movies on dvd (never a new movie--I can't make myself pay attention, but one I love and have seen a dozen times)
* Nap. A lot.
* Masturbate (when the depression is only mild... if I'm in a very bad place, I may as well not have a clit)
* Listening to audiobooks (you can download them free from
* Fun websites like I Can Has Cheezburger and Cute Overload or reading through the archives of one of my favourite webcomics
* Listen to silly 80s pop music (substitute with your favourite genre of ear candy if you didn't grow up in the 80s)

Good luck.
posted by happyturtle at 12:01 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've made a note of this page to remind myself of things that can stop the looming funk, hopefully...Your stories and advice helped greatly. Thanks kind internet strangers.

I guess a big part of it is an ego thing. Not that I doubt that anyone can get depressed but that recognizing brushing my teeth or getting dressed is an accomplishment and to accept that instead of beating myself over the head about it. So thank you for that point.

I do work with my doctor closely on my meds. Though I am starting to think I am irritating him as I keep saying I cannot handle the side effects of insomnia.(Along with the huge amount of weight gain) I mean I can handle being suicidal/depressed, and I can handle not sleeping but together it is an impossibility. However, my therapist said she would take it up with him if I gave her permission so I think I will be doing that.

have a cat that I took in when a relative died that doesn't like me much. Which makes me feel worse in an odd way but that's my own other cross to bear :)

Thank you for the list for - I had seen that once upon a time and had forgotten about it. Amazingly interesting sites.

Grateful as always fellow mefis.
posted by beautifulcheese at 1:47 PM on March 6, 2008

I have a list of things to answer your question, Beautifulcheese (great name, btw, I love cheese, any kind), but they involve privacy of my friends and family, so check your MeMail. And since I work at home, you're always welcome to MeMail me (I have it fwded to my regular mail so I'll get it right away.)

Big huge hugs to you and everyone else who shared their stories and tips. I wish I were more forthcoming but I don't want to compromise other people. I guess I need more courage to share as you have but I am perfectly willing to talk to anyone via Memail.

You sound like a great person, Beautifulcheese, and I wish you well for now and always :-)
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:56 PM on March 6, 2008

Please read How Not to Commit Suicide by Art Kleiner.

With the right meds, and some counseling to help you hang on while the meds work, most depression is treatable. Once treated, life is better, and you will be glad to be around. Keep repeating "It will get better." Listen to music that is not depressing; most music is a huge help. Try to get some sunshine, exercise, good nutrition and proper medical care. Sometimes, what seems to be depression is another medical problem. Read books or watch engrossing movies, or whatever occupies your brain.

It will get better. Really, it will.
posted by theora55 at 7:31 PM on March 6, 2008

have a cat that I took in when a relative died that doesn't like me much. Which makes me feel worse in an odd way but that's my own other cross to bear :)

I just have to respond to this!

First of all, blessings on you for taking on a homeless pet. Imagine - what would have happened had you not been willing? Weeks in a shelter, and then a home that had NO connection to the previous life of the cat. Your existence has been a real boon to this animal.

Second: I took in a cat that I didn't go looking for. My bleeding-heart brother came across 2 abandoned cats, stranded in their carrier without water and food. He took them both in, adding to a household in which he and his wife already cared for 2 previously abandoned cats. A 4-cat household posed problems. My (eventual) cat Sadie did not share the space well with the other 3. He called, and prevailed upon me to take her, and I was unable to be coldhearted enough to refuse. My lease allowed it and I had no real reason to say no. That was 5 years ago.

Sadie was standoffish, worried, anxious, cold, and indifferent for a good 3 years. I took her on as sort of a service. I fed her, kept her world clean, and treated her gently without expectation of recompense. On the few nights she deigned to sit near me on the couch, sleep at the foot of my bed, or - heavens! - sit on my lap, I considered it an astounding and tentative breakthrough.

Things gradually progressed. I have now had Sadie 5 years. She is no longer a charity case, but part of my life, and a good friend. When I look at her, I see not something I got saddled with, but a living being who is evidence of the fact that I am capable of loving and tending another creature who then thrives. Which is also true of myself, of course. I see her contented and happy, fed and loooked after, and I understand that what is true for her is true for me too. When she brushes off my affection I understand that she's in charge of her moods and doesn't always want attention. When she's cuddly, I take it as a compliment.

Not to sound like a crazy cat lady, but honestly, if you are able to take care of an animal without expectation of reward or return, you are capable of extending the same basic, simple, decent, patient, caring behaviors to yourself. And as time passes, and old feelings fade, those good and pleasant overtures will become more habitual, and you can relax into them just as your pet will. There's a reason that vets make therapy animals available. Our treatment of animals mirrors the treatment and care we ought to apply to ourselves.

SO I guess I'm saying: don't worry or have expecations about what the cat is thinking or feeling. Instead, take pride and pleasure in the fact that you have generously provided a safe, loving, gentle, and stable home for an animal who has not had much security to date. What you do for her, you do for yourself. Treat yourself at least as well as your pet, and you know that whatever negativity might be thrown back at you is a reaction to past experiece- - old habits of mind being discarded -- rather than a reflection of present reality.

Things change!
posted by Miko at 9:12 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hmmm...that How Not To Kill Yourself seemed more pro to me than was probably intended. It seemed to take the view that suicidal people are just making it up or doing it for attention. Though I assume this could be my outlook. Just a note to others.
posted by beautifulcheese at 9:13 PM on March 6, 2008

beautifulcheese, people who think about suicide are NOT making it up or doing it for attention. It's a very real desire to stop the pain. I always take people seriously who talk about suicide.

I can see how that article might come across as being pro-suicide, in an "if you REALLY wanted to do it, you'd succeed in killing yourself and not mess it up by just hurting yourself really bad, and here are some ways NOT to do it if you want to be successful" kind of way. But reading beyond the first couple of pages, I think its real attempt is to convey the message that suicide is preventable, if you can get the person the help they need--intervening in a situation where the suicidal person doesn't/can't see any other way out. It looks like the other message may be that suicide attempts often aren't "successful" because you don't end up dying, but you do end up in a place of even more pain and long-term complications, so please don't try it.

beautifulcheese, there ARE ways out, is the point, and thankfully, YOU are strong and seeking help. I'm not sure I'd have recommended that particular article for you right now.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:28 AM on March 7, 2008

Response by poster: I actually took everyone's advice and started to take a nightly walk. I don't go far or fast yet but I do find it helping some. So thank you for talking me into that. I'm just choosing not to call it exercise as that has negative connotations for me.

I did also get up the nerve to bug my doctor again about my medications and we've done some slight adjusting that seems to also have helped.

I marked art as the best answer cause amazingly I've found that painting and journaling and creating has helped me get a ton of insight into emotions and subjects brought up in therapy. Plus it is something I've never done before and I found it lead me into an interest in "real" art and I've taken to just looking at that and seeing what I like and do not like and finding joy in that itself.

A combination of everything everyone said really helped. So thank you. :) I'm not 100% better but I no longer feel like I'm drowning or living for therapy but actually living cause I would like to most of the time.
posted by beautifulcheese at 7:17 AM on May 23, 2008

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