In episode 302, I received a question from a listener who has struggled with persistent, worsening depression, feeling like their life is a joke with no direction. In this post, I dive deeper into the factors and play and offer my thoughts on how you can begin to move forward in this situation.
I don’t know what direction to take in life or how to make myself feel better. I hate everything in my life. My job, where I live, and not being able to follow through with anything. I feel like if I try to take a step in the right direction I get set back and end up back at square one. I am 27, and I have constantly struggled with depression but it is starting to get worse. I have been hospitalized and the last time was 5 years ago. I can hardly eat or maintain a routine let alone care about anything. I don’t know what to do anymore or pick a direction in life. I feel like my life is a joke and all I do is take up space.
Thank you for writing in. I’m so sorry that you are in this position. I know how hard it is to keep trying when it feels like no matter what you do, you can’t really make change for yourself. It’s easy to fall into learned helplessness and hopelessness. I’m encouraged by the fact that you wrote in. You still have a desire to get better. You don’t want to feel this way. You are not fully resigned to it. That’s great. We can work with that. You are 27 – to you that might seem old, but truly you are SO young. I hope that you are able to break through and feel substantially better soon, but even if it takes a few more years, you can still spend the majority of your life feeling much better than you are now. It’s definitely going to take a change though. We aren’t going to get there by doing the same thing that has not been working for you thus far.
Depression is a tricky motherf**ker though. You may know some of the things that you need to do, but depression makes it hard for you to actually do them. Then you not doing them makes you feel more depressed. A lovely cycle. But one way or another something has got to change if we are going to make some change. You mentioned that you have always struggled with depression. I’m glad that you can label it as that. It definitely sounds like you are depressed. If it’s to the point that you can hardly eat or care about anything, it sounds fairly severe and I’m definitely concerned about you.
You have a right to dignity and to take up space
You are not a joke. You do not just take up space. You are a human. You have a right to exist. You have a right to dignity and to take up space. You are worthy even though you have struggled. You don’t want to struggle. It’s just not that easy. A lot of people don’t understand how depression works. I do get it. It’s not your fault that this is where you are at. Your actions have definitely contributed, but that’s how it works. If you could snap your fingers and find motivation, energy, and inspiration, I know you would.
Treatments to consider
SO. First question, what strategies are you using or have you used so far? You mentioned that you’ve been hospitalized before, but I’m not sure what you are doing in terms of continuing care. Are you in therapy? Are you taking medication? If so, I think it’s pretty fair to say that those strategies are not working for you. You are struggling. You don’t deserve to struggle like this. So, if you are in therapy – talk to your therapist about the fact that you don’t think the course of therapy is working. See if they have ideas about what you could do differently. If not, choose another therapist. If you don’t have a psychiatrist, get one. Talk to them about how your current medication regime is not doing the trick for you. If you aren’t on medication, I would highly suggest it. You have significant depression. Some people are able to get through with lifestyle changes, with some personal effort, coping skills etc. But for you, you have been struggling chronically with this stuff.
If you have run the gamut of the typical options, it may be time to look into options for treatment-resistant depression. That’s what you call depression that doesn’t respond to normal treatment. I have done a whole episode about these options. If you check out episode 107 of the show, I talk about things like transcranial magnetic stimulation, ect, ketamine, etc. The idea for any of these things is to give you the little boost that you need, just enough relief from your symptoms to take action and make a difference for yourself. No shame in that.
Don’t do this alone
I would also ask how open you are about this with other people in your life. One of the things that depression loves to do is remain hidden in the dark. It likes to be your dirty secret that you hold preciously to your chest. Your private eternal struggle. We don’t want that. We want to drag it out into the light kicking and screaming. It has much less power over you when it doesn’t get to just be your dirty secret. So, if you have not yet told family and close friends about what you have been experiencing, I would consider it. Even if your parents know that you’ve been hospitalized in the past, they may not understand how much you are currently struggling. Please consider your own situation with this advice. Obviously, if you have abusive parents or something like that, you are not going to want to make yourself unsafe. But the idea is that you can build a community around yourself. It’s not being selfish, it’s actually being responsible. You want people to keep you accountable and support you so that you can crawl out of the hole that you are in right now.
It can also be hard when you are in the throes of depression to recognize what is a “real” vs an invented issue. In other words, people on the outside might be able to recognize that your workplace is toxic. They might be able to see that your home environment is causing you active harm and that you will need to get out of there in order to make any substantial change. A lot of times, when someone knows a lot about depression and has been through some treatment, but nothing seems to take, one of the missing pieces is community. It often takes a wrap-around approach to make a real difference. So just consider that.
Start small and build
Obviously, when you are depressed in the way that you are, you can’t always start with the biggest stuff first, you need to start with the lower-hanging fruit. I have an exercise in my depression book that can help with this. But basically, try to think of the path of least resistance. What is the easiest first step that you can take? Anything is better than nothing. Going outside and spending some time in the sun once a day is better than nothing. Setting up a weekly call with a family member is better than nothing. Joining an online support group for depression is better than nothing. Try to just get that ball rolling in any way possible. If you need to quit your job or move somewhere else, maybe that’s what you need to do. A drastic change isn’t necessarily going to magically solve everything, but sometimes it is the catalyst you need. Or it could be that you realize how much that situation was impacting you once you get some distance from it.
It sounds to me like you have been suicidal in the past and when you start talking about hopelessness in the way that you have here, it makes me concerned that it could be a factor now or in the near future. When it gets to that level, I think that it’s okay to take some risks and go for broke a little bit more. Obviously you don’t want to hurt anyone else that might be implicated in your decisions. But beyond that, if you can take a reasonable risk and move in a new direction, it might be time to just go for it. What’s the risk, right? Treat the place you are in right now as a period of progress. You are approaching another rock bottom that you don’t want to have to fully hit. So you need to do some work, you need to pull in more resources, you need to find some type of inspiration, anything to move the needle. It’s going to suck for a bit, but it is going to get better with your efforts and with the support that you will be obtaining. I believe in you.
Thoughts to leave you with
I say this a lot on the show, but don’t underestimate the value and impact of content. Even if you can’t get yourself to get off the couch, if you could switch from watching the office or Bob’s Burgers again to watching and listening to content that is inspirational, educational, or even directly related to coping with depression, you might be surprised. Sometimes all it takes is for the information to hit you at the right time in the right way to give you a bit of a boost. The last thing I will say, and I assume you’ve thought of this, but I don’t want it to go unsaid, make sure you check in with your medical doctor about the situation and rule out physical causes that could be keeping you down.
Alright – that’s what I have for you right now. Please keep fighting. Please don’t do this alone. Please recognize that you have a shot here, but it’s going to have to be different than what you have tried before. You got this.
You can listen to this on Episode 302 of the podcast!
Thank you for the great question!
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