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Frustrated.

by evildandelions

These are all the (non-medication) “treatments” I’ve been told will help me feel less depressed in the last decade:

 

  1. Exercise. Okay, yes, exercise is good for everyone. But I became depressed when I was running 15 miles a week and I’ve never seen any difference in my depression from periods of time where I was exercising regularly or wasn’t.  I believe it can help with anxiety, at least to an extent, but I personally haven’t felt any effect yet. This is something I’ll continue to do regardless (I would like to run a 5k again), and maybe over a longer period of time I’ll notice a change.
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  2. Meditate.  I’ve been trying to meditate daily for the last few months, usually end up meditating a few times a week on average.  I haven’t noticed any difference in my depression or anxiety.  Maybe this is something that takes a long period of time before any benefit is felt.  I could believe it could help my general anxiety by forcing myself to be calm regularly, but I’m still weary about how it helps depression.  From what I’ve read, it implies that it helps by reducing brooding/ruminating, but even that idea has problems….
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  3. Stop/lessen ruminating.  I’m not perfect, so I do ruminate sometimes, but I think everyone is guilty of that at some point.  I think I’m pretty good at stopping myself from continuing on hurtful trains of thought (for instance, I acknowledge that thinking about my ex being happy hurts and isn’t useful to think about).  But stopping myself from ruminating doesn’t seem to help.  I feel sad even if I don’t think about negative things.  I can wake up sad and crying (especially on my period) for no reason.  Sometimes I feel sad for no reason at all (which, isn’t that kind of like the definition of depression?).
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  4. Journaling.  This is something I’ve been doing since I was 13.  I have a box filled with journals.  It wasn’t something I started doing to help with depression, just- I’m a writer and writers write?  I think it can definitely help with certain things, like worrying.  It helps me to write down all the things I’m anxious about.  It feels organized that way, having it written instead of all the thoughts messily around in my head, and then I can go through each and decide how to deal with them.
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    I’m not sure I’d say it’s helped me feel less depressed, but it’s probably helped with coping.  There is something about writing about a negative event/feeling that can release some of the anger/hurt due to it.  But it’s a double-edged sword: sometimes writing about negative events can worsen or even cause ruminating thoughts.
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  5. Improve/fix self-image.  I think I have a pretty good “relationship” with myself.  I don’t have body-image issues (although I am a little sad about having lost some weight because my boobs shrunk and bras don’t fit right anymore).  I’m not perfect, there are times where I’m angry at myself and in that moment I feel like I hate myself, but ultimately I do like myself and think I’m a worthwhile person.  I have talents, I’m relatively intelligent, I’m a good person (I sometimes worry about it, but ultimately I know it’s true- I think the fact that I care about being a good person and try to be means I am), I’m a good friend, I’m relatively attractive.  I also understand that feelings aren’t necessarily true.  I might feel stupid when I don’t understand anything the prof. talked about in class, but I know that doesn’t mean I am stupid.  Upper level math is hard and I am not one of those people where math comes easily to them.  I just happen to be someone who (masochistically?) decided to study math despite this.
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    I do believe that improving the parts of myself that I want to improve could help my depression, but since most of these “faults” are caused/exacerbated by depression and anxiety; it’s a catch-22 situation.  For instance, my depression and anxiety have prevented me from being a good student.  I don’t focus well, I get frustrated easily, I have difficulty going to office hours to get help, and I feel so (mentally) tired all the time from constantly dealing with depression that every task is hard and takes so long to get done.  I am trying to get better at these things, but the depression and anxiety are working against me.  I think I need to be at least somewhat less depressed to be able to make any significant improvements.
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  6. Distraction.  This isn’t a treatment option. I swear the next person who says that I will rip them a fucking new one.  Distraction is simply existence for any somewhat functioning person with depression/anxiety.  I wake up sad, so I go try to work on an art project to try to distract myself.  This is helpful to a point.  Sometimes the distraction works and I get some time to feel “okay,” but sometimes the feeling just weighs on me, as if denser air were sitting above me, and no matter how much I focus on anything, it doesn’t go away.  And when I actually have things I need to do, like school work, this is useless.  I can’t distract myself from the obligations of life.
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    Distraction is still beneficial, as it can get me through a sudden increase in depression or anxiety, but it is only a coping mechanism and a short-term one at that.  When I say I want to be less depressed, I don’t mean I want to constantly be trying to distract myself.  That’s basically been my life for the last ten years and it is exhausting and not much of a life at all.  It also isn’t feasible for anyone who wants to be a somewhat functioning adult.  How does one go to work and take care of their home and/or family (and any other responsibilities) if they have to constantly be distracting themselves from depression?  If I’m so sad I need to distract myself (which debatably works), then how do I do my homework or do the dishes?  I can force myself to do them, but I will feel sad and/or anxious while doing it, which not only makes the task harder (and probably take longer), but at the end I’ll feel exhausted.
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  7. Socialize.  This is one that I’ll actually say it can help, although probably not to the extent that psychiatrists or psychologists like to think.  Ultimately, how much it helps probably depends on the person’s personality.  Like, I might hypothesize that for a depressed extroverted person, socializing would help because it’s something they’d usually need to do (as an introvert I am assuming here, but I’d imagine that as much as I need alone time, an extrovert needs social time- it’s certainly true for one of my friends).  I find it helps me in that I don’t have many friends period, and even less locally, and I just need to have some social interaction.  Conversely though, socializing can make me feel worse, as it can be an exhausting struggle to keep up a pretense of normalcy.
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  8. Exposure therapy.  This was what one psychiatrist recommended me.  I’ll give her a benefit of a doubt- she didn’t really know me yet- but it’s a stupid recommendation for myself.  I don’t have phobias.  The things that cause me anxiety are either abstract (worry that someone will die), social (having to talk to people, like my prof. during office hours), or have no reason at all (I just wake up with a sense of dread and tightness in my chest).  While I do tend to be avoidant of the events that cause me to be anxious, most of them are not things I can avoid.
    I’ve been a nervous driver since I was in a car accident 6 years ago and I don’t like to drive, but I still do it because I have to.  While I should go to office hours even more as I have been, I will sometimes force myself to go despite feeling anxious, because I know I need to.  When I feel anxious about going out to do some errand, sometimes I’ll put it off if it’s not urgent, but generally I force myself to do it because it has to get done.  I can’t avoid these parts of my life.
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  9.  Therapy.  Many of the above are facets of therapy (or even a type, like exposure), but therapy, just in general, is almost always the first treatment recommendation. I’ve spent about 7 years in therapy.  I’m not entirely sure what all the types of therapy there are or which I’ve done (CBT I think, but not sure what else), but they were all done in the talk therapy format.  Therapy was the first treatment I tried, and I really believed it would help. I didn’t try any meds until after a year in therapy.
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    I ended up changing doctors after a year because it was feeling as if the first one was simply telling me to just “get over yourself already.”  But, as with all professions, some people are good at their job, some aren’t.  I figured therapy hadn’t helped yet because I hadn’t seen a good therapist, so I was still optimistic with my next psychologist.  I liked her.  She was nice, I don’t remember her ever being condescending, and she helped me with tangible things like organizing steps to getting a term paper written.  Honestly, I didn’t need her help to do that sort of thing.  I knew how to get school work done, but I did/do get overwhelmed easily, so it was still nice to talk it through with someone (even though my dad could’ve just as easily done the same thing).  I don’t remember feeling any difference in my depression though.
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    My next therapist probably just did talk therapy.  All I can remember of her is that visiting her felt like visiting an old aunt who you only visit out of obligation.
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    I saw a few therapists after her (including going to my university’s counseling centre) but didn’t feel like they helped (one I outright just didn’t like) so I didn’t see anyone again until about 3 years ago.  I like her, but I don’t feel like it helps.  I told her I’ve never felt any benefit from therapy in the beginning, and she agreed that it doesn’t help everyone.  I’m not sure if she believes that I’m one of them, but it’s still more open-minded than any other doctor I’ve seen (although I know other doctors believe this as well, my ex’s did, but I can never seem to find them for myself).  Even though I didn’t/don’t think therapy was helping, I saw her fairly regularly in the beginning.
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    After my last appointment with my her, I decided I didn’t want to see her again.  I’d mentioned that I was tired of people telling me to focus on myself (it was right after my fiance left me) and not even 5 minutes later she told me to focus on myself.  But, after failing to find another therapist and knowing it would take probably weeks to find one and get an appointment, I decided to give her another chance.  Maybe she was just having a bad day that last session.  We have a session next week.  And this time, going in, I’ll start off with saying that our previous talk sessions, or any pure talk therapy, has never felt beneficial and asking if there’s something else we could do or something else that she thinks could help me.  I don’t want to continue seeing her if we’re just going to revert back to how our sessions were.
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    While it is still possible that therapy could help me, a “treatment” option where you just keep doing it until it works, doesn’t seem like a treatment.  If there’s no approximate end point, even just in terms of incremental improvement, it’s really no different than using distraction.

 

Ultimately, I just want doctors to stop assuming that therapy is this amazing cure-all.  To stop with the condescending assumption that if I’m not feeling any benefit, then I’m not trying hard enough.  Sometimes they say I haven’t seen the right therapist or tried the right kind of therapy, but given that I tell them that I’ve spent 7 years in therapy with multiple therapists and styles without results, it’s pretty clear that the subtext is, again, that I’m not trying hard enough.
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One doctor accused me of being “closed-off” towards therapy; I guess applying my own empirical evidence on the efficacy of therapy for myself must mean I’m refusing to let therapy help me.  I do get worked up about this subject when I talk (write) about it and I think that’s why she assumed I was “closed off.”  But doctors seem to always misunderstand my body language.  I’m not worked up because I’m so determined that therapy must not work for me.  I’m angry and hurt because whenever I try to ask for help, genuinely open to practically fucking anything because this depression is so unbearable and I need something to change after enduring a decade of it, to only be told to “try therapy” when I am already doing therapy, and have tried it for over 7 years with no improvement, it feels like being kicked when you’re already down.
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It’s starting to feel, from the attitude of others, like depression/anxiety has become this thing where if I’m suffering any symptoms, struggling at all, it’s just because I’m not trying hard enough.  It’s like I have to be perfect in order to not be depressed.  I must eat healthily, exercise regularly, socialize regularly, meditate, go to therapy, never think negative thoughts, never ruminate…. and if, despite all these things, I still feel depressed or anxious?  Well, I must not be trying hard enough.

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4 comments

distant.road 4/3/2016 - 4:15 pm

Unfortunately, mental health isn’t always an exact science. What works for someone might have the opposite effect on someone else. Doctors are human and they get frustrated, too. While I wouldn’t call out a patient in front of me, their comments might reflect their frustration in being unable (thus far) to help you.

You’ve included quite a list. Sadly, I’m familiar with a lot of what’s on there.

akg1229 4/3/2016 - 4:59 pm

None of this helps me either. I finally told my therapist the next time he told me to go take a walk I was likely to scream. I actually feel bad for those who work in mental health. Many of them want to help but have not experienced it first hand. Their assumptions are based from books they’ve read and lectures they’ve sat through. I finally had to face the fact that, for me at least, life isn’t for everyone and everyone can’t be ‘fixed’.

Hazy Day Sunflower 4/3/2016 - 5:25 pm

Wow, this is some list. I have to say I have tried most of those things myself with varying degrees of success. Kudos for you for tackling it from an empirical sense.

whiskered-fish 4/3/2016 - 8:08 pm

That last paragraph was extremely insightful. Man, you put words to a frustration that I’ve felt for a long time!
Nobody else has to work so fcking hard just to be kinda happy, so why the Hell should I have to? Or you, or any of us?! It isn’t fair.

“You’re depressed? It’s because you just don’t work hard enough! You’re lazy!”

Fck that noise.

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