Depression Can Make Even Basic Tasks, From Getting Out Of Bed To Going To Therapy, Seem Impossible
I frequently see patients with depression struggling with immobilization and feeling stuck in my NYC therapy practice. When you’re depressed, it’s often hard to even do the basics. With depression, you can feel hopeless, sad and numb. All of these things can make getting out of bed, brushing your teeth and hair, and making breakfast seem like insurmountable tasks.
Depression can prevent you from doing much of anything and sometimes, it can take over out of nowhere. One day, you might feel okay, while the next, it might be hard to move. Some patients I see in therapy go into an almost paralyzed state, while others can’t concentrate. And others struggle with not eating enough or at all. In these cases, functioning and perspective becomes difficult without letting someone else in. However, there are ways to continue to accomplish what you need to while depressed.
Doing While You’re Depressed Means Attempting The Minimum And Asking For Help When You Can’t
Even if you feel immobilized by depression, it’s important to keep “doing while you’re depressed.” By this, I mean, doing the basics and negotiating the rest. When you’re depressed and your brain is fuzzy or foggy, it helps to figure out what the bare minimum is that you can do in order to not let your life fall apart while feeling intense depression. This can be as simple as going to work, paying bills, eating, sleeping or making sure your child is safe and not neglected. No matter how depressed you feel, there are some things you cannot ignore.
Doing while depressed can also mean learning when to call for help when you can’t seem to do these basic things yourself or if your depression lasts more than a week or two. When you realize you can’t get yourself to work or function, it’s time to reach out for help, just like you would if you were sick with more than a 24-hour bug. Impaired functioning when dealing with depression may mean you need to call a friend, partner, parent, or therapist to talk about what is (and what is not) happening.
Medication Can Provide An Important First Step (At Least, For A Little While)
Some patients I see find medication can be the thing that takes them from functioning 20% of the time to 50% or even, 60%. While treating depression with medication always feels like a big question, it can sometimes (but not always) be the thing that is needed in order to snap someone out of a very difficult state. Medication can help you get out of bed and get to therapy or see a friend. Even if you’re still not feeling great, you may find you are able to move a bit more. While taking medication for depression doesn’t have to be long-term, it may free up more mental space for you in the short-term, which can alleviate being overwhelmed by depression.
Talk About What You Need With Depression, Even At Work
Often the key to doing while you’re depressed is learning how to voice what you need and figure out how to get it. This is as important in your professional life as it is in your personal life. For example, a lot of patients I see struggling with depression have trouble getting to work and doing their job. In these cases, it’s important to talk about what you need at work without neglecting or negating the importance of your work.
Even if it seems scary, admit to your employer, “Hey, I’m struggling with depression. I’m going to need to leave work a bit early or come in a bit later because it’s hard for me right now.” Let your employer know that you may need to go to the doctor more regularly for a while to both get a handle on the depression and keep being able to function in your position at work. Ask what work you might be able to do remotely or figure out short-term goals that might make things easier during this period. Rather than disappearing or avoiding work, it’s better to come out and say, “Hey, I’m not doing well. But, I’m trying to get help.”
Get Help Figuring Out All Your Options
When feeling immobilized with depression, sometimes it seems like your options are in black and white–either you stay in bed or you don’t. But there are alternate ways to get help and do what’s necessary to find support while you’re depressed.
For example, in my depression therapy practice, I know that helping a patient can, at times, mean presenting these options. Sometimes, I offer, “Look, I need to see you twice a week, but once can be on the phone while the other is in person” or “Even on the days you can’t sleep or get out of bed, you need to connect with me even if it’s on the phone.” Sometimes, I even say, “Hey, I’ll drive.” This is key because it helps patients to see beyond going out (or not). There are many ways to still get to a therapy session even while you’re depressed.
Treating Depression Takes A Village
Depression can hit you hard and isolate you. In villages, you can’t isolate yourself–you have to walk outside and see the people around you. In this way, your own village–the support system of people you have around you–plays an important role in helping your depression. Of course, this can mean a psychiatrist, if you’re considering medication, or a therapist. For instance, your therapist can talk with you about what is happening, what your symptoms are, how you are feeling and what you need that you’re not asking for or even, seeing.
But, your friends and family are an essential part of this village too–each with their own function. Parents can provide the nurturing support of home or maybe they are best at logistical support. Find a way for them to be helpful in this period of time. If it feels good to stay with mom or dad for a bit, visit while you’re feeling depressed and alone. They can offer up some practical care that might be hard for you to do for yourself like going to get groceries, driving somewhere or walking you to the therapy office. Don’t be afraid to ask siblings and extended family to help you do the things that are hard for you right now whether giving you a push by talking to you in the mornings or taking you for a walk or to get some food. Friends can give you emotional support, especially if they have also been there before with their own depression. Even, watching Netflix with a friend without talking can let you know someone is there for you even when you aren’t feeling particularly fun.